National marathon runner Soh Rui Yong made headlines for winning the national title as the top local finisher in the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2017 (SCSM). The two-time SEA Games champion clocked in an impressive timing of 02:35:55, placing him 14th overall, ahead of fellow Singaporeans Ashley Liew and Evan Chee.
Despite incredible results, Soh has his sights set on bigger goals. He hopes to one day finish in the top 10 or maybe in the top five, among the international competitors from Kenya, Europe and United States in the SCSM, and he also aims to be the first Singapore marathoner to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He has just returned from the World Half-Marathon Championships held on 24 March 2018 in Valencia, Spain.
He finished with a time of 01:08:28, impressive by regional standards but in the highly competitive international scene was just good for 122nd position.
With so many events to train for, one might think he is a full time athlete, but Soh is not. He is training while juggling a full-time job. The committed athlete whose motto has always been, “To always race like a champion, but to always train like I’m in second,” makes time to train before and after his work hours.
“My training sessions comprise of a variation of easy runs, tempo runs, interval workouts, and long runs. I also spend 40 minutes to one hour in the gym once a week to work on strength and conditioning,” he says.
With such drive and determination, the 27-year-old marathoner is without a doubt, an inspiration to all budding athletes out there.
In this interview, Michelle Yee speaks to Soh about his running journey, some of his proudest achievements, and his plans for the future.
How did you get started in running?
Soh: I was always active as a kid, be it playing “catching” or “ice and water” at the playground, or basketball and football in school. I would compete at Sports Day or National Schools without much training and still run relatively well, so I guess that was an early indication of my potential in the sport. At the age of 12, on the encouragement of my mum, I joined the Chinese High School’s cross-country team for training. Training with a team and a coach, I started to see glimpses of how far I could go in the sport.
Which are some of your proudest achievements and why?
Soh: Winning the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games marathons. For both SEA Games, the medals I won were the only ones our team claimed for the men’s track and field, a sport we have struggled in royally in the past few decades. Being able to contribute a bit of hope to a struggling local sport is something I’m proud of, and I believe it sends the message that no matter what the odds are, there is always a fighting chance if one is willing to work hard enough and make the necessary sacrifices to maximise his performance.
What do you like best about running?
Soh: It’s relaxing, fitness building, and offers a competitive thrill. How much of each factor you wish to make it depends on the type of training and races you wish to pursue. From the recreational 5km runs to the Singapore Marathon and the Olympics, there’s something for everybody. I genuinely believe that running unites people under a common interest. It also promotes a healthy lifestyle, as the more people run, the healthier they can stand to be, thus improving their quality of life.
Have there been times when you felt like giving up? What keeps you going?
Soh: Many times. During a marathon, the pain and fatigue get so intense that I begin to question myself on whether or not it’s worth it. But the drive of chasing down the goals I have set for myself motivates me to give my best in every race, and embrace each day and each opportunity we have to work on our dreams. Two hours of pain or a lifetime of regret – it’s no question at all.
What is your diet like?
Soh: I drink lots of isotonic drinks like H-TWO-O throughout the day to keep me hydrated and energised. I eat lots of carbohydrates like rice and pasta, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and enough protein to rebuild damaged muscles.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Soh: As Singapore’s first man to qualify for the Olympic marathon, and eventually a mentor to younger athletes and coaches looking to chase their dreams of becoming better runners and coaches.
Do you have any tips for budding marathon runners?
Soh: Be very patient – the process of training for a marathon is a long one, but manageable if one is patient and determined. And it is important to find a coach you trust.
What goals have you set out for yourself?
Soh: I plan to look for a marathon to run fast this year, and a time of 2:21 – 2:22 is my goal. Of course, I hope to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics too.
This is just the tip of the iceberg! Soh Rui Yong in the latest digital edition of RUN Singapore, where he tells us more about his story in an exclusive interview! Subscribe to it here: https://www.runmagazine.asia/product-category/magazines/