Sky Runs

Taking the long way round


The short version:

My name is Sky and I like to run. A lot. After 10 years of running and a couple of years of getting a little better at it, I decided to start this blog to share my experiences and chronicle the many journeys I take as they happen. The tagline, “races, people, places” pretty much sums up what it’s all about for me, though not necessarily in that order of importance (it just sounded better that way).

Mohonk Skytop

The long version:

I grew up in New York City in a world without running, but with many other things to take its place: namely dance, music, and books. But really I was a little nerd raised primarily by an overprotective and loving grandmother who never pushed me to do anything remotely sporty.

My earliest memories of running are all tied up with the New York City Marathon. I grew up not far from the finish line in Central Park, intrigued from an young age by the finishers draped like superheroes with their space-blanket capes, imagining the day when I’d run with the grown-ups. At the time, I associated running for leisure, and marathoning in particular, with adulthood, independence, and an self-discipline.

In reality, it took many years and a move halfway around the world to Hong Kong before I began running regularly in late 2004. I was fresh out of law school, working long hours at a huge international firm, and though we often stayed late, we had a bit more leeway in the mornings since the office was pretty empty before 9:30 or 10:00am. So I joined a gym and started working out to restore some sanity and activity to my desk-bound life of contracts and China.

Despite making us work like we were in the salt mines, my firm was quite generous in its support of employees’ participation in the big local races. It was a firm-wide e-mail seeking sign-ups for corporate team participation in the Hong Kong Standard Chartered races that got me registered for my first half marathon in February 2005. A few months later, I joined the firm’s 4-person team for the Oxfam  Trailwalker, a 100K charity hike through the steep mountains of Hong Kong’s New Territories, and technically my first ultra.  After completing the OTW in a little under 30 hours, 4 hours or so of marathon running didn’t seem like too big a deal, so I signed up for my first marathon, again through my firm.

I trained for the 2006 Standard Chartered Hong Kong marathon for about 10 weeks using a basic Hal Higdon plan, running 3-4 days a week at an easy pace with one long run or a race on the weekend. At the time it seemed that everyone just wanted to break 4 hours for the marathon so that’s what I hoped for too. I had run previous year’s half marathon in 2:05, just wanting to finish, and run another, much hillier half about a month earlier in 1:53, so I had obviously improved a bit. Still, I had no idea about things. I went out, enjoyed myself, and ran a 3:45.

That sounds great, right? I didn’t think it was a big deal but everyone around was really impressed. When I found out how close I was to a Boston-qualifying time (which I hadn’t even thought about), I decided that the next year I would run under 3:40. No problem.

Right. Instead, what followed were years of increasingly worse marathons, and then some not-so-bad-but-still-far-off-the-mark marathons as I changed careers and moved to Beijing and then back to Hong Kong. In 2007 I ran a 4:39 personal worst on the same course in Hong Kong; 2008: 4:34 at Nagano; 4:06s at Seoul and Tokyo in 2011 and 2012. People didn’t think I’d make sub-4 again. I was still planning to BQ some day.

In 2012 I spent the summer in San Francisco, and I had signed up for the Tahoe Rim Trail 50K one weekend and the SF Marathon the next. I hadn’t originally planned to run the marathon but the opportunity to run in a race across the Golden Gate bridge was too appealing to pass up. I didn’t train for either, just did my usual lot of easy running with one 18 or 20-miler thrown in at some point. And a lot of walking all around SF. I did both races for fun, finished the TRT as my first solo ultra in 8:24, and then chilled my way to a 3:55 finish in SF. It only took 6 and half years!

Psyched by what I’d just done on no training, I decided to prepare well and come back to New York in the fall of 2012 for the NYC marathon, which I’d finally won a lottery spot for. I followed a one-page plan I’d ripped out of Runner’s World, came to New York a few weeks ahead of time, ran most of the course with some local running teams, and then everyone knows what happened next.

In early 2013 I moved back to NYC for good and reconnected with Dashing Whippets Running Team, one of the local groups I’d run with on my previous trip. They were friendly, fun, and speedy, plus they had the best name ever. I started training with them, setting aside any feelings of intimidation about running with some much faster people to get a bit faster myself. And finally, I BQ’d at the Big Sur International Marathon!

However, I had pushed hard and hurt myself at Big Sur in a ridiculous but very painful way whose name  shall not be spoken. For a while I wasn’t sure what kind of future I would have in running, as even slow walking was uncomfortably difficult in my condition. Coming back to the U.S., where the running community is so active and there are so many races to choose from, I’d gotten carried away signing up for stuff, and now it seemed that I would have to DNS a lot of them, including my planned first 100-mile race, The Great New York 100-Mile Running Exposition. I recovered eventually, with an even bigger appreciation for running and a greater sense of gratitude that this was the worst thing that had ever happened to me health-wise.

Once I got back to running, I was cautious not to push too hard at first because I really wanted to make it to the start (and finish) of the TGNY 100. I did, got my first win (it was a very small women’s field!), and you could say the rest is history. I’ve been on a tear since then, running far more than I every imagined I could, but still mostly winging it. I still feel fortunate  for every day I can run and every race I can join, and I’m happy to share everything I learn along the way to inspire and motivate you. If I can do this, anyone can.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Sky,

    This is Amanda from The University of Hong Kong, Alumni Office. Professor Ying Chan of JMSC passed us the good news that you are now representing the US in the IAU . We would like to have a really short story and a photo of you and running in the Class Notes section of the alumni magazine Convocation Newsletter. Just about 120 words. May I know if you could share with us a photo to be published? As the publishing date is pressing, hope to hear from you soon!


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