Interview: Energetic 72 year-old Valliammai Palaiappan ran her first 10km

Precious Run 2017 - auntie Valli with her daughter Tara holding her hand in her run
"It is never too late to start. So stop giving excuses and take the first step today." -- Valliammai Palaiappan, 72 year-old runner who just completed her first 10km race

I have known lovely Tara for a few years now from running. And I was introduced to her mom auntie Valli in December 2017 at Kg Pandan Sports Complex. When Tara told me that her mom is 72 years-old, I couldn't believe it! Auntie Valli looks so youthful, energetic and full of life! I do observe her when she runs at the running track. I tell you! Auntie Valli doesn't run like a 72-year-old! Even 100 meter striding sprint exercise, she can do it with big stride strength and no complaints! What an amazing inspiring woman!

I also noticed how close both of them are - Tara and her mom auntie Valli! It's their close bonding between mother and daughter that really touches me. I believe Tara has really helped to bring out the youth, the inner potential, the best of her mom at the age of 72!

Tara also mentioned in January 2018 that her mom would be running her first ever 10km race in February. And she thought it would be awesome if her mom could share her inspiring story with readers. Tara suggested an interview with her mom. Wow! I'm very excited about it because if one more inspiring story can go out there to the world, the better the world will be. We need more positive vibes in this world! :)

I finally had a chance to set up a set of interview questions and got Tara to help me to have a casual chit chat with her mom based on the interview questions. The topics evolved around how running has transformed Tara's loving 72-year-old mom, auntie Valliammai Palaiappan, who just completed her first 10km run in February 2018.

An Interview with 72 year-old Auntie Valli

About Valliammai Palaiappan (72 years-old)

Born in Chettinad, India to a humble farmer family in 1946, auntie Valli didn't grow up like the typical scenario for growing up girls in India. Her loving parents insisted that she and her sister got proper education,  which was very rare in the 1950s. She still remembers fondly how she used to learn. The school teachers would write on palm leaves using a "nail" and the students would then follow by writing on the sand! At the young age of 18, she got married and whisked away to Malaysia. She has settled down in Malaysia ever since with three wonderful grown up children and three marvellous grandchildren. Now at 72, auntie Valli enjoys her pink health and lives joyfully with the help of running.

Precious Run 2017

1. How long have you been running?

I have been running for about four (4) years now. But I had been doing my morning walks in the neighbourhood since 1980s.

2. Morning walk is awesome! But what made you want to run four years ago?

I once complaint to my daughter, Tara, that despite me walking every day, I was still not at my ideal weight. She then looked at me seriously and said, "Mom, you need to step up your game and start running! You have been doing the same exercise for too long and it's not getting you any results." I was shocked at her reply. But I also started to get curious about running. Then one morning four years ago, I decided to try out running by running a short distance of 2km. That was my first ever run after so many years of morning walks. Surprisingly, I felt very good. I wish I could run more frequently back then but running in my housing area is pretty dangerous. So I depend on Tara to bring me to a proper running area to run. And I've been so looking forward to every opportunity to run

Close bonding of a mother and daughter

3. How many running races (and the distances) have you completed?

I have completed one (1) race in 2016 and three (3) last year. They were TDRA Charity Run 2016 (3.5km),  Care2 Run 2017 (6km), RBC 2017 (5km), and Precious Run 2017 (6km).  I had to DNS the Score Run 2016 (6km) because I fell down and had a broken wrist just two weeks before the event.  But that didn't even deter me from running and joining future races. I just need to be extra careful in my running. 

After the race with Evelyn Ang

3 generations running a race together - with her daughter Tara and grandson Sooriya!
Getting ready for RBC race with Evelyn Ang

4. What event and when was your first 10km?

Recently, I completed my first ever 10km run at KL World Urban Run 2018 held on 11 February 2018. It was simply amazing!

Congratulations auntie Valli for completing your first 10km race!! Awesome!

5. How was your 10km result?

I don't know my result but according to my daughter Tara, I finished it in one (1) hour and fourteen (14) minutes. Is that good? 😛

6. How did you feel on your first 10km race day? Were you nervous, excited? Can you share your first 10km race experience? 

Actually I was very calm on the race day because Tara and her good friend, Edi had accompanied me. But to tell you the truth, I was very nervous from the day I was told that I would be running a 10km race. 😀 Somehow, Edi managed to convince Tara to register me for a 10km race. Initially, I was complaining but I realised that a goal has been set for me and I must achieve it! But I set a condition that Tara and Edi must accompany me all the way to the finish line. They did keep up to their promise. They took turns to hold my hand as I ran. It gave me the confidence and extra energy to continue without stopping. In fact, Tara would warn me to slow down when I went too fast. She wanted to make sure that I have enough energy to sustain until the finish line. Along the way, I also received compliments from some young runners. It was very encouraging to hear their compliments. They made me smile! One particular guy in his 50s was watching me closely. After completing the race, he found me and thanked me for pacing him! He said each time he slowed down, he saw me overtaking him and that pushed him further not to give up.

Her daughter Tara held her hand to run her first 10km race.

Her daughter's good friend, Edi, who also held her hand to run her first 10km race. He also "coaxed" auntie Valli to run her first 10km race! :) 

Auntie Valli has found an admirer! :)

7. What was your training regime like to prepare yourself for the first 10km? Weekly mileage? Frequency and venue?

Tara had introduced me to her coach. Mr Tony Quay who trains runners voluntarily at Kg. Pandan Sports Complex, Kuala Lumpur. He taught me to do speed training such as fartlek and 100 meters sprint which I have never done before in my entire life! Since the training ground is flat, Tara also brought me to Bukit Cinta in University Malaya, Sri Hartamas, Bukit Tunku and Matrade area on weekends to train on uphill routes. My weekly mileage was about 25-30km.

Training at Kg Pandan Sports Complex

Running with her daughter Tara's friends at UM

Training continues.... with wide stride!

Auntie Valli's 1st 2km training

8. Do you have a group of runners support network?

Unfortunately, none of my age group people run like me. Ideally, it would be nice to run with a group of friends to motivate each other. But I'm very blessed because of my daughter Tara and her friends. They are my runners support network and big encourager in my exciting running journey. But I still hope to find my running friends in my age group one day in addition to the support of Tara and her friends. haha! 

9. What motivates you to run?

Seeing myself looking radiant and slim really motivates me to run more. When friends and strangers praise me, I feel more motivated.

10. When you run, what do you think about?

Initially, when I picked up running, I was constantly thinking of what others would think of me. But now, my mind is totally free when I run. 

11. Any benefits have you reaped so far from running?

Several years ago, I had a very bad neck pain (cervical area) that indirectly led to high blood pressure, cholesterol and weight gain. It also affected my sleep and I was constantly tired. I was also given so many types of medication to get better. But in reality, it didn't help and I was only getting weaker and depressed. After embarking into my running journey I have become healthier, slimmer and off from medication as the doctor had given me a clean bill of health. The doctor was pleasantly surprised and asked for my "secret". I told him about my running journey and he gave me thumbs up, encouraging me to continue running.

Charity Run at UM

12. Do you ever feel demotivated at times? If so, how do you pick yourself up again?

The demotivation rarely comes. It only occurs when I had lack of sleep the night before and I find it difficult to run the next day. But when I see my coach looking at me, I quickly pick up my pace and run. haha! 😃

13. Do you plan to run further? 21km, maybe one day?

Actually, I am quite content with running 10km distance. But my coach and my daughter are planning something more for me. Hmmm....... 😅

14. Running 10km at your age (72 years old) is not a small feat. What advice and encouragement do you have for those in your age group?

From my own experience, I would recommend to start small by doing some fast walks first. Then slowly progress to short distance jog and finally get into running. It's also very good to set goals by registering for some shorter distance races. That will indirectly force you to train up and get ready for the race. I really look forward to seeing more people at my age run! Then I can also make more new running friends! 

15. Any motivational quote / phrase that you would like to share with readers especially your age group together them out of their house to run?

I would say this to encourage them, "It is never too late to start. So stop giving excuses and take the first step today."

Yay! Another run under her belt!

16. Are there any particular people that you are very grateful for in your running journey?

Yes. I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few people who had played a major role in my running journey:
  • My daughter, Devatara Munusamy (fondly known as Tara), who had introduced me to running and has always supported me in many ways
  • Evelyn Ang whom I miss dearly and had a great impact on me. Her beautiful smile and her encouraging words always linger in my mind when I run.
  • My coach, Tony Quay, who trains me weekly and ensures I train sufficiently without injury.
  • My daughter's friend, Edi Shamsudin Annuar who "coaxed" me into taking up 10km challenge when I thought 10km distance was impossible for me. 
  • My daughter's mentor, Kuppusamy Kanniah, who encourages me to stand tall among Indian ladies to break free from the tradition of just being a housewife and staying at home
first race - lovely picture of auntie Valli and her daughter Tara

Training with TPRC at Lake Garden

Thank you auntie Valli for such an inspiring sharing! You rock! You really motivate us all! You have shown to us that nothing is impossible and age is not a factor! 

Thank you Tara for helping to interview your mom at her comfort in her language as well as the supply of all the wonderful photos (photo credits to all the photographers at the races and to Tara on her personal photos). You are truly a loving daughter who goes all out to bring your mom to join you in your running journey! :) Well done!


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