Endurance racer proud to have inspired others

A WOKING-born runner is proud of the inspirational impact her extraordinary exploits have had on her family and the sporting community.

Forty-four-year-old Susie Chan, a well-known figure in the world of endurance running, only began the sport when she was in her 30s.

ENDURING INSPIRATION: Endurance racer Susie Chan with dad Tom

But she has since completed some of the toughest challenges on Earth, including the notoriously punishing Marathon des Sables – a six-day, 156-mile ultramarathon – four times. And she is now using her platform to help others achieve their goals.

Chan told the News & Mail: “It’s lovely to be an inspiration to people on their own running journeys. I present and commentate at events such as The National Running Show alongside the likes of former Great Britain Olympic athletes Iwan Thomas and Sally Gunnell. I love those events because you meet lots of runners and it’s really nice hearing them say ‘I saw you do that run’.

“The thing about running that I really love is that there’s no particular demographic.

“There’s no one type of person or job, you just meet so many people from all walks of life, all brought  together by running. It’s brilliant.”

Chan got into running through her brother Alan, who initially coaxed her to enter the Farnham Pilgrim half-marathon.

Her exploits then inspired her 70-year-old father Tom to start running – until he was struck down by illness.

She said: “Unfortunately he picked up a very aggressive lung disease so he had to stop running, and he’s on oxygen now.

“That’s really sad and we’re all worried about him, but hopefully he’ll be back out there when everything’s calmed down.

“We’ve given him a new goal of walking 3km [just under two miles], so hopefully he’ll build back up to that.

“But before that happened, I’m glad we were able to share a few months of running together.

“He had basically retired and was worried about getting unfit. So he started to do brisk walking and then added in some jogging. Then I said ‘Dad, let’s do a parkrun [almost three miles ] together’.

“We went to Woking Parkrun and I asked them to make a fuss of him, as he was nervous and he’d never run that far before. So everybody was clapping and cheering him. It was really lovely and I hadn’t seen him that excited in a long time. He was so happy.”

Chan, a former pupil of St John the Baptist School in Kingfield, has also suffered from ill-health.

In 2017, she was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in her thyroid. Incredibly, she completed a half-marathon just two weeks after an operation to remove it. But she did testify how tough it has been to overcome.

She said: “It’s been hard to adjust as thyroid regulates quite a lot within your body – it’s probably only now that I’m over it, and learning how it controls core temperature and other things.

“So I haven’t been running to the best of my ability since, but at least I can still run.”

Chan, who completed one of her Marathon des Sables races alongside BBC newsreader and good friend Sophie Raworth, declared that her hardest event to date was the Rainforest Run. That was a six-day, 147-mile race through the jungle in Costa Rica.

For anyone looking at getting into endurance running, she has her own tips. “I have lots of distraction tactics,” she said, “because running a long way does hurt.

“I’ll take myself out of the situation and focus on positive imagery. I say to myself ‘This time tomorrow I’ll be having a beer’, or ‘I’ll be in my bed in four hours’.

“But really the truth is that the harder it’s been, the sweeter it feels at the finish.”

Chan’s next three events – including the Badwater Cape Fear 51-mile run in North Carolina, US – have all been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

But she is already eyeing up races later in the year and expects to have a “super busy autumn”.

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