Her strength-Joanne

Joanne | from couch to marathon! overcoming life’s challenges with a “marathon mindset"

Juggling work and family life is not easy for any mother, but as an experienced marathon runner, Joanne loves to push her limits.

For Joanne, life’s challenges are like a marathon: no matter how difficult things are, perseverance is essential. This “marathon mindset” has helped her overcome many life’s difficulties.

Her Strength - Joanne - Decathlon

Joanne li

With a career as a social worker spanning over 2 decades, Joanne has completed 2 part-time master's degrees and is a mother to 2 children. When not working, studying or looking after the kids, she enjoys going on early morning runs to clear her mind for the day ahead.

Her Strength - Joanne - Decathlon
Her Strength - Joanne - Decathlon

How did you get into long-distance running?

From 2011-12 I reached a low point, and I wanted to set myself a goal to get my life back on track. I saw an advert about the Nagoya Women's Marathon on 8 March 2015, and I decided to take the plunge and register. I had done running before off and on, but it was only to control my weight and I hadn’t followed any structured training program. After registering, I spent 6 months training by myself without a coach. I managed to complete the 42 km race, which is equivalent to running from Chai Wan to Shenzhen!

Her Strength - Joanne - Decathlon

Which long-distance routes do you use for training?

My long-distance route starts from Central Pier and passes Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park before following Victoria Road towards Aberdeen. The route continues up Nam Fung Road to Hong Kong Parkview before descending towards Causeway Bay and Jardine's Lookout. This is followed by another ascent towards North Point Mid-levels and Braemar Hill. The final section descends into North Point and passes Shau Kei Wan and Sai Wan Ho before continuing along the seafront towards Central Pier. The entire route takes approximately 5-6 hours. It’s even more challenging than a marathon race, but that’s how you have to train. Thanks to my tough training regime, I’m always able to cross the finish line with a smile on my face.

In the morning I usually run a shorter route, such as from Mid-levels to The Peak – even though it’s only 5 km, it’s still a great workout.

What’s the relationship between long-distance running and mindfulness?

I like to meditate, but I often have a lot of things on my mind, so I practise mindfulness through running. Moving helps your brain forget about your problems and gives your body a chance to refresh itself. I start my morning run at 5 am, which fills me with energy for the day and prepares me for the challenges ahead.

I might try trail running one day, but being a mum is pretty demanding, so I don’t have much time to try new sports at the moment. However, due to the pandemic, I have been hiking a lot recently – over the past 6 months I reached my goal of climbing Hong Kong’s 50 highest peaks.

Her Strength - Joanne - Decathlon

How do you keep yourself motivated while working and looking after your family?

The answer couldn’t be simpler: because I want to keep fit! No one is “too busy” – you just have to learn how to manage your time. If I don’t fit in my early morning run and sleep for another 1 or 2 hours before going to work, I wouldn’t be at my best, and I would get upset easily if there was a problem at work. In addition to keeping me fit, exercise also helps me relax and maintain a positive mindset.

Her Strength - Joanne - Decathlon

What’s your ‘strength’?

I love taking on new challenges. Overcoming challenges and difficulties helps me grow as a person – I love that feeling of knowing that all your hard work has paid off. Last summer I had to submit 5 essays for my master’s degree, as well as doing my full-time job. It was such a  tough period! I used my “marathon mindset” to work my way through each essay – I started by writing the first one, and then moved on to the second task, and so on, just like in a race when I tick off each stage and tell myself that I’m almost at the finish line.

All challenges present an opportunity. Reaching a low point in life made me get into running, and I got lots of messages of support when I shared my experiences online. When I injured my foot, sports venues were closed due to the pandemic. As I decided to try hiking, lots of mums my age were inspired to do the same. I’ve no desire to become a KOL – I just want to do my best. I hope that I can be an inspiration for other women, regardless of their jobs. You have to learn not to bury yourself in work or family life and make time for yourself, no matter how busy you are!

“Learn to find your rhythm and enjoy the process, not just the results.”

Her Strength - Joanne - Decathlon

What have you learned from running?

Running has taught me the importance of taking things step by step. You don’t need to run a marathon straight away – you can try running 3 km more each time you train, and over time all those small improvements will add up. As with any sport, you don’t need to win a place on the podium in order to participate – if you want to enjoy yourself, you have to take things at your own pace and focus on the process rather than the end result. Every time you want to give up during a race, you have to tell yourself to keep going and that you will reach the finish line soon. This “marathon attitude” has helped me finish every long-distance run and marathon race and given me the courage to overcome many life’s challenges.

I have 2 very gifted and active children, and I have to spend a lot of time caring for them. When I’m reaching my limit, I imagine that I’m running a marathon and tell myself to stick with it until the finish line. Once my daughter fell over while participating in a track and field event, but she got up straight away and even managed to win the race. Afterwards, she told me that she was in a lot of pain, but she was even more afraid of being overtaken, so she decided to get back up and continue running. My “marathon mindset” has had a big influence on my daughter – like me, she isn’t afraid of hardship or accepting challenges.

Sport has been really good for me mentally – after work, I still feel like I have the energy to play with the kids, and doing exercise has given me a more positive outlook and encouraged me to accept new challenges. Sport has taught me that nothing is “impossible” and that “too busy” is not an excuse – even someone as busy as me can still find time to do exercise!

How have you managed to deal with injuries?<br>

I broke my foot last year, so I couldn’t run for 3 months. It was at the start of the pandemic, when all sports venues were closed and there were no gym classes.

To prevent excessive muscle loss and aid my recovery, I decided to take up hiking. On the spur of the moment, I set myself the goal of climbing Hong Kong’s 50 highest peaks within 6 months. It was very difficult to begin with – some of the slopes on the well-known peaks are very steep, but I soon got used to it. As long as you do enough training, it’s definitely achievable. I also took my son and daughter with me on a number of challenging routes, including Tung Yeung Shan, High West, Mount Parker, Tai Mo Shan and Lantau Peak. It was a great way to spend some precious time together, and my 2 hyperactive children really enjoyed the days out.

Her Strength - Joanne - Decathlon

What are your favourite decathlon products?

No set of running gear would be complete without a comfortable pair of running tights. I’m a big fan of Decathlon’s 2-in-1 shorts/tights set – they look really stylish and elegant. The tights are great for women – the seamless design reduces chafing, and the fabric wicks perspiration away to keep you dry. In terms of hiking gear, I really like Decathlon’s compact trekking poles. The quality is excellent and they are very reasonably priced – all 4 of us have a pair at home, and they’re really useful for our hikes.

2-IN-1 RUNNING SHORTS/TIGHTS-DECATHLON

2-In-1 running shorts/tights

Leggings with integrated shorts to combine low weight and coverage for those who like the support of tights, without being too revealing around the bottom.

ULTRACOMPACT TREKKING POLE-Decathlon

Compact trekking pole

Foldable, durable pole to support you on your long hikes.

RUNNING HAND FLASK - Decathlon

Running hand flask

The valve projects water directly in the mouth. Keep your flask handy with the strap.

What’s the purpose of sports? As Joanne’s story shows, exercise can help us relax and improve our perseverance and endurance. Regardless of your starting point, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself and make sport part of your life. Don’t worry about winning or losing, and you might be in for a surprise – like Joanne, if you try your best, you can go a long way. There aren’t many things in the world that can be achieved overnight, but with time, anyone can make small amounts of progress add up to something extraordinary.

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