Interview with Helen Susanto

Interview #3 for Inspiring Women Who Run

The story of greatness usually starts with a simple first step – and in Helen Susanto‘s case, it was also triggered by a little ego trip. How she started running is truly inspiring, if not slightly comical. You will learn that her inner voice has played a big part in her journey to running success! What some people take years or a lifetime to achieve in terms of personal records she has reached in just a short year plus. Helen is not only committed to her passion and actively gives back to the running community, she is also naturally talented in running races and works hard to achieve her goals. Curious yet? Read on and find out in this week’s installment of Inspiring Women Who Run.

Fairy M Proudly Presents: Inspiring Women Who Run!


1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am just an ordinary 34 year old girl from Kemang, Jakarta, who likes to keep herself active. The Helen Susanto of now and before I got into running is 2 different persons. Before I started, I was enjoying (too much!) of my comfort zone. I only did my routines and doubt that I can do more than what I knew I could do already. I did not like running then. In fact I always tried to run away from running! But the mere fact that I now can enjoy 5K, 10K, 21K and 42K opens my eyes that there are lots out there for me to explore.

The “runner” Helen is now a braver girl and curious about her capability.

2. What made you get into running?
I always love to share this story! One fine Sunday morning (Sept 25, 2011 to be exact) I saw a friend’s Blackberry Messenger profile picture showing her in a nice Pink/Yellow singlet – posing with another friend and she wrote in her status: “I DID IT!” I was curious, so I asked her about it and our conversation went something like this:

Me: What did you do?
Her: I ran 5K this morning at the Adidas King of The Road in Ancol. You didn’t know?
Me: No. 5K? You ran 5K?
Her: Yes, but I am slow though. I finished in more than 35 minutes.

I thought to myself, “Hmm… 5K. She ran a 5K and she’s not as fit as I am! SO…… IF SHE CAN DO IT… I CAN DO IT!”

That same day, late in the afternoon,Β  I went to the gym. I stepped on one of the treadmill machines and I put Goal: Distance: 5K. My first ‘run’.

“Hey, it’s not bad.. It took 31 minutes and I am alive. My knees are OK, I can do this.”

Once I was done, I texted my friend again and bragged about my ‘running.’ Then I asked her if there were any 5K races in the near future because I wanted to give it a try. In a month’s time, the Jakarta RACE (Race Against Cancer Everyone) was held and they had a 5K category, but my friend said it’s better to register for the 10K since you will get a bib. We didn’t refer to it as a bib then, we called it nomor dadaΒ (chest number)! Talk about being a newbie runner!

“Dang….. 10K… I am dead… but I’ll try..!” Obviously, my ego was too big to let a 10km discourage me. πŸ™‚

With that decision, I messaged one of my acquaintances who is a runner to ask about any running group in Jakarta because I felt I needed to start training to run on the road. He introduced me to IndoRunners — the largest running community in Jakarta (if not Indonesia). I joined the group the following Sunday and thus, my first road run.

Another important thing I did was to ask my good friend in Manila, who is a hardcore runner, for a training program. He assessed my gym routine, my weekday and weekend activity, then he sent me a training program for my 10K race. I completed my first 10K under 1 hour. And thus the running addiction begun.

Helen’s complete collection of AKOTR medals 2012 with a couple of potential winner cards!

3. How long have you been running?
It’s been 14 months since my first ‘run’ and I am loving it. Under my belt I have collected quite a few 5Ks and 10Ks, five 16.8Ks (Adidas King of The Road 2012 series in Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia & Singapore), five Half Marathons (PR 1h 53m) and one Marathon (PR 4h 17m).

4. What’s your typical training pattern like?
First and foremost, let me start with the most important thing: Rest. Ever since I applied 2 rest days in a week, I feel that my running efficiency is improving and I feel better too. Weekdays are for speed, buildup and recreational run; while weekend is for long runs. On top of that, I also do weight training which I think is also important to support my endurance. I make sure that my personal trainer is updated with my race schedule, so he can help with functional training that not only builds muscles but also improve my running movement.

5. Do you have any special diets?
Nothing special or extra-ordinary, but ever since I started running, I do try to stay away from fried food and sweets (this is the toughest since am a sweet-tooth). Try not to add ’empty calories’. It’s hard enough for the legs to pound the tarmac for that long, so it’s better to keep the body light (less pressure on the legs).

Other than that, due to my weight-training routine, I also add more protein intake for two reasons: help build/recover the muscles from long runs; and to lose fat. Why lose fat? One: With higher muscle mass, your body will burn more calories; Two: Protein should keep me full longer. Three: Protein is the hardest to process, therefore more calories are burned to process the protein.

I also recommend eating more often with smaller portion! It really works! Choose your snacks carefully. I opt for almond, orange, apple, kiwi, or oatmeal.

6. Tell us about your role as ambassador for Adidas Indonesia.
I am blessed to be chosen as one of the ‘ambassadors’ of adiNation of Runners Indonesia, it will be 1 year in Feb 2013. The title “ambassador” is overwhelming, especially if you’re representing such a big brand like Adidas. Inevitably, people will wonder about these questions: Who is she, what did she do, how fast is she, is she of athletic/model quality? etc. Understandably, they are curious to find out the achievements of an ambassador.

But the simple fact is, an adiNation of Runners (ANR) Ambassador is a mere administrator for the ANR’s main activity: RUNNING.

The institution is not looking for a professional athlete or a super fast runner (goodness, I am not!) or a super fit gal. The core idea behind the institution is to build a community with passion for running. Hence, Adidas was looking for a “guy/girl next door” type, who has normal daily activities (work/study) and also an abundant passion for running so that the community (adiRunners) can relate to that person and be inspired.

I was discovered by ANR’s captain (Pasha Yudadibrata) who spotted a new name (mine!) in the top 10 list from my 1st Half Marathon (Standard Chartered Half Marathon Indonesia). Actually not many female runners joined that run and my time was 2h 8m (somehow I still managed to be top 10!). So Pasha approached me. He was also looking for a marathon virgin, and so the rest is history.

As the administrator (or ambassador) of ANR, my task is to support the community by arranging the weekly run (Sunday morning run), runners discussion/clinics, share knowledge through social media, motivate/inspire them by setting a good example. In return l get to join the Adidas King of The Road in all 5 countries, all expenses taken care of by Adidas Indonesia.

Helen (2nd from right) featured in the Indonesian Adidas King of the Road 2012 poster

7. What is your favorite race distance and why?
I have to say that my favorite distance by far is the Half Marathon, followed closely by the 16.8K. I think I am more of a long distance runner than a speed demon. Half marathons allow me to build endurance and also help my shorter distance run, but it does not tax the body too much (like a Full Marathon). Half marathon and 16.8K also require shorter time to recover!

8. What was your favorite race and why?
My favorite race is the Condura Skyway Marathon 2012 in Manila. It was my 1st official International race and where I had my breakthrough PR. I did the Half Marathon there, and PR-ed by almost 7 minutes.

9. Do you have any other goals which you have not yet achieved in running?
Running has slowly become part of my life. I will try my best to always beat my previous times. To push my limit… this is a lifetime goal. However, one of my dreams in running is to be a coach/motivator for beginner runners. I would like to give back to the running community. My medium term goal is to be a pacer in one of the International-level race.

10. Do you have additional advice or shout-out to say to all lady runners out there?
I know it sound clichΓ©d but my favorite quotes is “I don’t stop when I am tired, I stop when I am done.” This is not only applicable in running, but in all aspects of life and work. Try that mantra, and you’ll feel wonderful once you reach the finish line! And when you’re in doubt if you should run or not, go run! I guarantee you’ll feel better afterward.

Meeting Helen Susanto, Swiftest Female Runner I Know!
Fairy & Helen, catching up in Bangsar after AKOTR Malaysia (Sep 2012)

Thank you Helen for your invaluable insights! Ever since I interviewed you, kiwis and almonds are my top choices for snacks! We wish you all the best.

Do you like these interviews? Do click the “Like” button or Tweet this page – your feedback inspires me to keep finding wonderful inspiring women for IWWR! Thank you for your show of love and support. πŸ™‚

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Hi! I am Fairy from Petaling Jaya, Malaysia - currently residing in Sydney, Australia. This blog contains write-ups on my fitness adventures, whether it's running, swimming, hiking, Zumba, whatever! If I sweat, I write! As a young adult in my twenties, I led a relatively sedentary lifestyle before I had an awakening in 2011. I was overweight by age 30 and finally decided to turn my life around, so I started to reclaim my health back by losing 20 percent of my then body weight by playing dance and fitness video games! I've not looked back since and now happily lead an active lifestyle. If you want to get in touch with me, please email me at fairy[at] or DM me on Instagram @myindo. Thanks for stopping by!

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