• With No Athletic Background, Mom Finishes 6 World Marathons

    Did we mention she did her first marathon while pregnant?
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .

  • Mench wearing her World Marathon Majors six-star finisher jacket

    When we make the decision to get married and have children, we think we have everything figured out. We make plans where to live, where to send the kids to school, and how to raise them the best way we know how. But, as many of parents have already realized, it's not as simple as it sounds.

    First, motherhood brings with it physical challenges: A caesarian section wound that needs to heal, a bad back from carrying kids (among others) for years, and we all know about mommy brain. And then, on a deeper level, you find that there is also a need to satisfy not only your family's needs but also your own. You realize that for you to become a nurturer, you need to fill your cup first.

    That's what Mench Dizon, a 37-year-old mom of two, realized nine years ago when she was struggling to find her purpose. She eventually found it in running, and now has six world marathon majors (with plans to do some of them again) and a total of 17 marathons under her belt, while sitting as CEO for Trip.Club. She shares with us how she did it with the hope that it will inspire other moms to take that first step to pursue what will make them even more fulfilled as a wife, as a mother, and as a woman.

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    Q: What got you into running?
    A: There was a point in my career life—I think I was [in my] 20s, or just recently married—when I felt that my life was just about my work. Parang I spent a lot of my hours just working, and I wasn’t happy doing just that.

    When I look at my husband, who is a game developer, he has been happy working. I asked myself how come this guy knows on the onset what his real purpose is and it gives him so much happiness? I went on this search mode on where I could have that. I tried photography, and I went to retreats to discern.

    In 2007, there was an office Olympics at Ayala Land where I worked. They fielded us, new employees, so wala kang excuse, di ba? That's when I realized I kind of like running! My teammate and I signed up for the Singapore marathon in December 2008, which was my first marathon. 

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    Then, two months before the race, I found out I was pregnant, so my husband said to check with my doctor if it's okay to run and do the marathon. 


    Mench in her first marathon in Singapore, while pregnant with her first child.

     

    Q: So you ran your first marathon while you were pregnant? 
    I was eight weeks pregnant, and I was very cautious. I have a tendency na hangga't kaya ko, pipilitin ko, pero it’s a different case especially you’re pregnant.

    Eight weeks after I gave birth I tried to go back to my old routine but kept it light. Not so much heavy training, I just started with the movements lang. Having that energy back was good for self-esteem, especially coming from nine months of pregnancy, extra weight and all. 

    Q: What were your pregnancies like?
    Relatively easy. I gave birth to Julian in 2009, and because I was breastfeeding my son, I didn’t know that I was pregnant with my second! I only found out parang eight to ten weeks na ako. So when I ran the CamSur marathon in 2010, I was 16 weeks pregnant pala. 

    In 2011, I gave birth to Katy. In 2012, I ran my first world marathon in Berlin. So between 2009 and 2012, I was running and giving birth in between.

    Q: Was there a particular reason why you chose Berlin over the others?
    We were drawn to the Oktoberfest in Munich, and then we thought, maghanap kaya ako ng race [while there]? We could do a side trip to Berlin. It's also a fast course, meaning it's mostly flat, so the top runners clock in their fastest there.


    Taking in the sights at Berlin in 2012

     

    Berlin was a beautiful experience. You have the crowds lining up the streets to support you. They close off all the major thoroughfares; it's a huge spectacle. The city just really comes alive. It was such a fun time, including the travel, so that's when I decided, I’ll do the other [world marathons]. It's like putting together the two things I love to do: running and traveling. 


    Chicago, 2013



    New York, 2014

     

    Next came Chicago in 2013 and then New York in 2014. New York is the biggest race in the world, and one of the most organized. It’s also super hard to get into because it’s lottery driven. The only way I was able to get in was this rule that if you’ve been trying consecutively for three years, but you have not gotten in, you have a guaranteed entry to the race in your fourth year. 

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    Tokyo, 2016



    London, 2015

     

    I also did Tokyo in 2014, then London in 2015. London was special because I didn’t get in via lottery, but I still wanted to pursue it. So I applied for a charity, and the charity that I got was close to my heart. My mom never walked a day in her life—she was born with poliomyelitis. I got into the charity in response to her disability. 

    I did Tokyo twice—the first was in 2014, and again in 2016, which was my Boston qualifier. This year, I had other international races na hindi major.

    Two weeks after the Boston Marathon last April, I did the Big Sur marathon in California. 


    Boston, 2017

     

    Q: Wow. That's six world marathon majors in five years. How do you manage, considering that you have kids and a business to run?

    I found my ideal set up when it comes to training. I do my training in the morning every day, so I ride with the kids on the way to school, and they drop me off at the gym where I spend an hour and a half during weekdays. I'm usually in my office in Makati around 9 a.m., or sometimes I work out of BGC. I try to be home by 6 or 7 p.m. so I can sleep with my kids.

    I train three weekdays a week. On weekends, I have a long run on Sunday (two to three hours) and a shorter one on Saturday (one hour to one and a half hours).

    I treat it also as my self-care. I have to fill up my cup to be able to give so much of myself to my family and my work. It helps that I have a supportive partner who understands that this is something that I have to do for myself. 


    Mench in perfect running form 

     

    Q: You weren't into any sports when you were younger. Where do you get the motivation to run, and how are you able to sustain it? 

    There's always a desire in me to complete it. I've always wondered, may kaya ba akong tapusin? Can I succeed somewhere? Because if I haven’t found it in my corporate job, maybe I could apply my energy into something else. And maybe—just maybe—the success I experience will support the other things that I do, lalo na when you see it closer and closer. So after Boston [the last world marathon], I've mellowed down... that's until I find my next running challenge.

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    Her prized collection



    Q: How has running helped you become a better mother? 
    On a typical level, you have more energy to deal with your energetic kids. Siguro it's also a way for me to educate them that one can do other things apart from the day-to-day work or school. I think it also helps in that I'm not as cranky because I have an outlet. 

    I'm also teaching them about discipline because you're showing by example that you can commit to something. One of the things that sports had given me is the mindset that skills can be learned—you’re not born this way or that way. It’s a growth mindset, which I also want to impart to my children, along with the value of hard work. 


    Mench, Julian, and Katy

     

    Q: How has motherhood shaped you as a runner?
    I've become more aware of my time limitation. I know I can only harvest so much time for my training, so I have to be smart about it. If before I could spend maybe two or four hours a day running, now I had to find a training program that suits my lifestyle. I've also learned to be more careful about my health, kasi if I get sick then who will take care of my children? The good thing about running is hindi ako sanay magkasakit.

    Q: How does running help in your relationship with your husband?
    It was positive because I have my thing and he has his thing. We come together to talk about [our interests]. That space in between is very important; it keeps the relationship fresh, and I feel much younger and less of a nagging wife. I think if you’re doing something for its sake, you’re more fun and happier as a person. Running raises happy hormones, so that helps you not to take stuff too seriously.


    With husband Gabby

    Q: What would you tell moms who want to get into a fitness program, business, or a passion project, but couldn't start because they are held back by their fear?
    The important thing is to move. Take a step, no matter how tiny. Let’s say you’re interested in getting better physically again after you've given birth. Carve out time, and it doesn’t have to be an hour. Do just 10 minutes a day, but do it at the same time every day. It’s easy when you just start that way. Then you just grow it from there—the next week, add another two minutes, and then the next week, add another two minutes. So you have milestones that are few, simple, and easy at the start, especially if you’re coming from nothing. Otherwise, you will always be overwhelmed. Even if [the results] don’t show yet, you know that there’s progress just because you’re showing up every day. 

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