When Lee Swee Luan says it’s never too late to start running, she is speaking from experience.

Lee started running when she was 60 and nine years later, she is set to run her ninth full marathon at the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon on May 21.

“If you don’t try, you will never know. I don’t think age is a barrier when it comes to running. When I first started, I didn’t know if I could run at all. After running for a while, I wanted to see how far I could go and now, I fully intend to keep running,” says Lee, 69, who ran her first full marathon in 2013.

She started running because she wanted to become more fit and lose some weight.

Lee runs a restaurant in Taman Sri Rambai in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, with her husband. Their hours are long and she felt the need to do something to boost her stamina.

“We work long hours and do everything ourselves. I am the only chef and my husband is the only server. It is tiring and I needed to do something to get more fit so that we can serve our customers better. I was also a little overweight. At just 152cm, I weighed 56kg and I wanted to lose some weight. After a year and a half, I dropped 10kg and am now 46kg,” says Lee, whose speciality dishes are curry fish head, curry mutton and claypot prawn.


Lee believes that age is no barrier to running. Photo: Lee Swee Luan

When she started, Lee ran short distances regularly. Her first race was a 5km school fun run. She soon increased her distance to 10km. When she got into the top 10 in the veteran women’s category at a 10km run, she was encouraged to try longer distances.

In three years, she ran her first half marathon at the Penang Bridge International Marathon and two years later, she did her first 42km.

To train, Lee runs 30 to 45 minutes every morning at the stadium near her house. Every Sunday, she goes hiking at the Cherok Tokun Hill in Bukit Mertajam.

“I don’t do long, slow distance runs or speed training or heat training. I listen to my body and don’t run too fast if I can’t. If I have any injuries, I will make sure I take a break and allow my body to recover. And I made sure I learnt the correct running posture so that I can prevent injuries,” says Lee who has three daughters and two sons.

Lee’s dedication and passion for running has inspired her family to join her.

“After I completed my first marathon, I started to persuade my children and husband to start running too. Three of them joined the Penang Bridge Run that year in the half and full marathon categories. A year later, my eldest daughter joined us too and ran her first half marathon. Last year, nine of my family members joined a marathon,” says Lee joyfully.

“I think everybody can and should run. When you are active and not overweight, there is less likelihood of you getting injuries or aches and pains,” she says with conviction.

Lee is the oldest woman runner at this year’s Standard Chartered marathon.