Although she did not show any marked improvement in the half marathon at yesterday's NTUC Income Run 350, Olympic-bound marathoner Neo Jie Shi remains confident of beating her personal best in Rio de Janeiro.
Finishing third among the local runners at the F1 Pit Building, she clocked 1hr 34min 26sec - about two minutes slower than her time from the same race last year. This year's top local finisher was Jasmine Goh (1:31:27).
This marked her first competitive race since Singapore Athletics appointed local distance-running coach Steven Quek in January to help her prepare for the Olympics.
Neo qualified for Rio after finishing 10th in the women's Open category at December's Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore in 3hr 15min 6sec.
The 30-year-old said: "I was faster last year, partly because the route today is slightly different and a bit longer compared to last year."
He advises me not just on running, but also gives me advice about how to recover after a hard run and I find it very useful.
NEO JIE SHI, on training under new coach Steven Quek.
Having been a self-guided runner for most of her life, Neo started training with Quek only from early February. However, the assistant manager in human resources and administration has no problems adjusting to her new routine.
"It's not too much of a difference (having a coach) as I've been training all along as I work," she said.
"In the past, I would join my running club after work but now, it's just that I changed to another venue and train with my coach."
Training four to five times a week now with coach Quek, Neo stated her track regime is more structured and specially acknowledged that doing more interval runs has helped to improve her speed.
"He advises me not just on running, but also gives me advice about how to recover after a hard run and I find it very useful," she added.
Neo, the first woman marathoner to represent Singapore at the Olympics since Yvonne Danson at Atlanta in 1996, is looking to compete in another half marathon in May in preparation for Rio where she wants to better her personal best of 3:09:57 at last year's Hong Kong Marathon.
She said: "Definitely, I am working towards breaking my personal best but it also depends on the conditions in Rio, but I do really hope so that I can achieve it."
In the men's half marathon, Kenya's David Kibet placed first with a time of 1:06:56 while the top local men's finisher was Stuart Haynes (1:17:31). Cheptoeck Careen, also from Kenya, won the women's half marathon with her time of 1:20.59.