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Debbie Lim Photo: Debbie Lim workout

4 Flights. 5 Time Zones. 1 Half Marathon.

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"There are 31 you know. Do you need another hanger?"

I didn't quite know how to begin this article, and had asked my mum to send me a picture of the medal rack in my old bedroom for some inspiration, and she (bless mothers!), with that perfect blend of concern, exasperation and just the tiniest hint of pride, actually counted how many there were.

Patagonia marathon Photo: Debbie Lim 

Photo: Debbie Lim

Like magnets that I used to collect from countries that I visited, in recent years, I've found another way to remember some of these places and experiences. Not bought from a gift shop, but earned.

It took four flights across five time zones to travel from Singapore to Puntas Arenas, which was the nearest airport to Chile's southern Patagonia. I had a couple of days to acclimatise, which is important when running longer distances in a foreign place. I would recommend a quiet first day with lots of rest and hydration, especially after long flights.

REPC (Race Entry Pack Collection) was a little wooden table on the second floor of Espacio Nandu, a restaurant that also doubles as an apparel/souvenir shop. The Runner's Guide had a helpful checklist to prepare you for the race and gave you an idea of the conditions to expect. When you read that "there is a possibility Patagonia will surprise us with some form of a storm to show us her power!" and the fact that they recommend "earplugs to protect against the wind", you know you'll have to take your layering seriously.

The race morning temperature was 1 Degree Celsius, but the icy wind felt way below sub-zero whilst waiting to flag off. I wore a long-sleeved baselayer, a winter running jacket and a windproof shell. My tights-clad legs felt bare and I was thankful for my gloves and running buff which kept the heat in. The sun was nowhere in sight. I'd made friends with an Irish girl named Kat who bravely decided to run in just a long-sleeved shirt. Together with the mostly Latino crowd, we did a Spanish countdown and we were off!

Patagonia marathon Photo: Debbie LimPhoto: Debbie Lim

2 km in, I’d removed my beanie and gloves, together with my running jacket. The sun had broken through and my own body was coming to a slow burn after the first of many uphill climbs. Plenty of time to catch my breath though, because at the crest of every slope, every turn, was a photo opportunity.

Last year, I ran the Victoria Falls Marathon in Zimbabwe and was waylaid by an elephant who had a ten-minute stare down with me on who would cross the road first (in case you were wondering, the elephant won). In Torres del Paine, it was forests, lakes and glaciers, against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and azure skies. I was running through fields of clouds rising from the lakes, and stopped time and again to take pictures and videos, as well as deep breaths, to imbue my senses and memory with the beauty of the nature around me.

Scenery aside, the route was challenging. The air was cold and thin, and although you don't perspire much, breathing does get more laboured earlier in the run. Coupled with the pothole-ridden gravel terrain, long uphills and strong headwinds, we dug deep to surmount that last particularly unforgiving slope just before the finish line at Hotel Rio Serrano.

Patagonia marathon Photo: Debbie LimPhoto: Debbie Lim

The atmosphere at the end was festive. We were, after all, part of the 400-odd runners who’d just completed a remarkable race. There was also a 10 km category, but in my opinion the most picturesque parts were in the first half of the half marathon route. It was also a celebration of an event well-organised, efficient and eco-friendly too. Runners brought their own cups, although there were communal cups at each hydration point for those who needed them.

Patagonia marathon Photo: Debbie LimPhoto: Debbie Lim

I left Torres del Paine that day with a new friend, dinner plans, 64 photos, 12 videos, a black toe, and a little gunmetal disc hanging from a bright green lanyard - medal number 32. It showcased the flags of every represented nationality this year, and I am delighted to know that I was the runner who put the Singapore flag there.