“I wish I could tell you a different story today,” Joakim Gomez laments when we meet him for today’s chat and photo shoot. It’s just a couple of days after the Standard Chartered Marathon 2019, Joakim’s third since he became an ambassador for the race in 2017.

What was meant to happen: the 31-year-old 987FM jock would be posing proudly with his finisher’s medal from the 42km race. What happened instead: Joakim unfortunately cramped up halfway through the race and had to drop out for the first time in his life. “It was heartbreaking. I won’t deny it — I actually cried,” admits Joakim, who’s just come from a physiotherapy session, and has KT tape (or kinesiology therapeutic tape which provides support to ligaments and muscles) all over his legs. “Thankfully, it’s just a cramp and the physiotherapist told me to take a break from running for [a couple of weeks].”

But even though Joakim may be in the midst of overcoming the pain of the marathon — both physical and mental, we reckon — he’s already signed up for his first run in 2020: a half-marathon in April. If it’s not obvious by now, yes, Joakim loves running. But more than that, he loves a challenge. 

“That’s the thing about me. Once I’m hooked on something or I have a target, I make sure that I reach it,” he quips. That explains why he took the leap to complete his first marathon, simply because the organisers had approached him to be an ambassador. “I didn’t want to be an ambassador of a marathon and only complete a 5km run,” he says with a laugh. And that was how he went from running two to three times a week to currently training six times a week, completing up to 11km routes every other day, and doing marathons annually. 

We don’t know about you, but after all that festive bingeing and boozing, this is the fitness inspiration we need to get back into shape for 2020 (or at least in time for Chinese New Year, because you know, critical relatives).

8 DAYS: Talk us through what happened during the recent marathon. Why did you have to drop out?
It’s my third time running the Standard Chartered Marathon and I was hoping to complete it under four hours. But at the 18km mark, my right calf began cramping up, but I kept going. But I realised my pace had slowed down, and even my Apple Watch [which tracks my timing every kilometre] was beeping and telling me I was going one minute slower than my target pace. The Series 5 watch has a pace function. You enter how fast you want to finish 1km in and it tells you if you’re slowing down or going too fast. Mine was set at about 5:30. Then at the 20 km mark, the cramp just acted up and it got too bad. If this was the 35km mark, I wouldn’t mind enduring it and going on. It happened before during my first marathon in 2017, but I was able to carry on, albeit limping a bit, and finished the race. But at 20km this time, it was still too early and my pace just kept getting slower and slower. I had a notification on the watch which said I was going slower and I was like, “No, don’t say it, don’t break my heart!” So I had to drop out. But I’ve made a commitment that I’ll be back for this year’s marathon. Hopefully I won’t cramp up this time.

01a apple watch data
No, this is not Joakim’s watch. But you can get your paws on the Apple Watch Series 5 (from $799) at Apple stores and at https://www.apple.com/sg/.

Why did you first start doing marathons?
I started in June 2017 when they gave me the ambassadorial role. It was the first marathon that I’d ever taken part in. I focused on training for it that year and I fell in love with it. I’ve always been running since I was a kid — I was in the sprint team in primary school and in the cross-country team in secondary school. But at 29, I took it a little more seriously than before.

I’ve always been running, but in 2015 and 2016 I was going through a dark time in life. My personal life wasn’t going too well and work was a bit stressful. So I was binging on junk food so much. I’d wake up at 2am hungry, and order McDonald’s and wolf down a burger. I was running, but only about once or twice a week and only about 5km each time. My weight increased from a healthy range to 80kg [Ed: Joakim is about 75kg now]. I was looking at my photos and realised I looked a bit chubbier. As luck would have it, StanChart approached me for the ambassadorship after I had posted about my running training a couple of times. So I took on the 42km marathon and started training. Shout out to Ben and Jim from Coached Fitness who’ve helped me with my heart rate training programme. I was doing about 49 minutes for 10km, and they told me you have to go a bit slower to lose weight and train for marathons. And you train according to your heart rate. There’s a fat burning range and a sugar burning range. I trained in my fat burning range and I lost about 6kg in four months and my timings got better. Of course, part of it was dieting — I cut carbs and sugar. I used to love iced lemon tea so much but I had to cut it out. If I drink Coca-Cola, I go for the no sugar option. My favourite drink since 2017 is oolong tea.