LSC Connect: Hi Maria, thank you for agreeing to chat to me. Can you start by telling me a little about yourself?
Maria: I was born and raised in the south of Russia in a small city calls Elista. I come from an ordinary family and we had some hard times in the 1990s in Russia. I moved to Moscow to go to university when I was 21 years old. After I graduated, I started applying for jobs. I was really frustrated as I couldn’t land any job during the first few months. At that time I needed a distraction, and I found it in running. I found a job soon after but also continued to run and I was lucky enough to start traveling. During one of the trips I realised that I needed to speak English fluently so that I won’t have problems conversing with locals. Now I exceeded all my expectations. I never knew and never dreamt of studying, living and working abroad.

LSC Connect: I remember the first time we met at your WIC graduation in September 2015 and I was astounded to find out you ran marathons. How did you get into marathon running?
Maria: I guess at some point, every runner would want to try running a marathon. For myself, this point came after I’ve been running for two and a half years. I ran my first half a marathon in December 2013 and for me the next step was full marathon. I was dreaming about it before I came to Malaysia. It was my ultimate goal, an item on my bucket list to tick off and I was really motivated by my running teams both in Moscow and Kuala Lumpur. I ran my first marathon in July 2014 on the Gold Coast, Australia. There is something mystical about running a marathon. Everyone talks about it but no one can really tell you what it feels like to be there on the road running for four to five hours.

LSC Connect: How do you get yourself prepared for a marathon, both physically and mentally?
Maria: My team, Kyserun Krew, helped me a lot with the preparation. Often on Saturday mornings, instead of sleeping in, we would wake up early and go for a long distance run in order to build our stamina . It was fun, a group of people going to a forest near Kuala Lumpur, to clock some miles before breakfast. The team spirit kept me strong mentally during my preparation, I always had a chance to ask them various questions if I had doubts.

LSC Connect: How did you combine this with your studies at WIC?
Maria: I planned my first marathon well. It fell during my third semester when we had just started on our final projects. This meant that I had around one and a half weeks to be away from the college and to travel to Australia. Running helps me to concentrate on what is important and calms a stressed mind. I’d say it was beneficial for me to concentrate on both preparations to my first marathon and writing my final project. I also combined study and running with a job in a nearby café as a waitress. It was fun to meet new people and I like being busy.

LSC Connect: Were you able to apply lessons learnt from your marathon training to your studies, and vice versa?
Maria: From both my studies and running, I’ve learnt that team work is crucial. You always have your classmates and lecturers to ask questions, to collaborate with and exchange ideas on various study topics. I won’t say I was very disciplined both with studies and trainings all the time. Sometimes, I would skip my midweek runs and I would study late into the night rather than during the day. But at one point, I understood clearly that if I was not going to train well then I will suffer during my marathon. I will feel that I am weak and I will feel the need to start walking instead of running. My goal was to run non-stop, no matter how slow, I wanted to run. I realised that there were no short cuts to what I wanted to achieve. I had to train regularly. I applied the same attitude to my studies. My final project wasn’t going to be written by itself, so I was there sitting, doing my research, writing line by line every day. I’ve learnt to be patient when I run, I’ve learnt to bear with the pain and not to give up if the tasks become difficult. No heroism here though, I was just doing what I really liked and what I really wanted to achieve. Finish my marathon and finish my studies.

LSC Connect: You clearly have a really positive and determined spirit and it’s helped you in all you have achieved so far. What have you been doing since you graduated?
Maria: It has been a time for job hunting, travelling and running. While searching for a job and getting frustrated about it, I had something to distract myself with – running. I got a job in January 2015 in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City as an Operations Consultant for a Digital Ad campaigns and it was such a whirlwind time in my life. Blessing in disguise I would say, as I got to experience a new culture, and I’ve met amazing people along the way and finally realised that sometimes what you want is not what you need. However, by June 2015 I was approached by one of the biggest media agency in the world and I got a job offer as a Digital Analyst in their Malaysian office. I accepted the offer and have moved back to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It has given me another opportunity to explore and test my limits.

LSC Connect: As you settle into life back in Malaysia, when is your next marathon?
Maria: I am hoping to get a slot by lottery for a marathon in Osaka in Japan, in late October 2016. What do I mean by slot? Well it’s going to be a lottery format whereby in April they will randomly select from the thousands of applicants who have registered. This is to be fair for everybody. Japan is a country of long distance runners and there, marathons are celebrated on a large scale. My fellow runners have told me many stories about their experience of running in Japanese marathons and I want to see it myself. Japanese runners will put on colourful costumes instead of running attire. Others will bake cookies and hand them out to runners along the way. Kids would be there too to cheer them up.

LSC Connect: That sounds like it will be a marvellous experience and I hope you are one of the lucky ones who get chosen. What about your plans longer term?
Maria: We Russians are we very superstitious so we often prefer not to tell about our plans. But I am a travel addict, an avid sports lover and a very curious person. So I know I’ll be constantly moving forward, that’s for sure. For now I am seriously considering getting a certificate as a yoga instructor. I also want to become a digital freelancer so I will have opportunities to move around to other countries. I believe in that whatever you want to achieve you will succeed if you really want to make it happen. If it’s not me, then who else?

LSC Connect: Well, you’ll certainly keep busy and I am sure you will tick off more boxes on your bucket list. Just remember to stay in touch and tell us about your marathons and adventures.