Athletics: Singapore's top distance runner Soh Rui Yong rocks in US with half marathon mark

Singapore's top two long-distance runners Mok Ying Ren (left) and Soh Rui Yong took part in the San Jose Rock 'N' Roll Half Marathon in California on Sunday. Mok ran 1:08:22 in his first race in 15 months after suffering a string of injuries, while S
Singapore's top two long-distance runners Mok Ying Ren (left) and Soh Rui Yong took part in the San Jose Rock 'N' Roll Half Marathon in California on Sunday. Mok ran 1:08:22 in his first race in 15 months after suffering a string of injuries, while Soh broke Mok's previous national-best time set in 2014 by eight seconds when he clocked 1:07:21.PHOTO COURTESY OF SOH RUI YONG

SEA Games marathon champ sets national best timing; Mok also fares well in comeback

He had just crossed the finish line with a result that cemented his status as the top distance runner in Singapore.

But even after completing the San Jose Rock 'N' Roll Half Marathon early yesterday morning with a new national-best timing of 1hr 7min 21sec, Soh Rui Yong refused to get carried away.

The reigning SEA Games marathon champion's result improves on Mok Ying Ren's previous best of 1:07:29 set at the Christchurch Marathon last year.

Soh also holds the national record in 10km (31min 15.95sec) and is the Republic's fastest active marathoner (2:26:01).

"This (record) is something that I've been trying to get for a long time," the 24-year-old told The Straits Times in a phone interview from California, peppy and sprightly despite speaking while doing his cool-down jog.

"The conditions were warm enough to go without arm sleeves or long socks but still cool enough to run well. It was as good as we could have asked for - you only get races like these maybe once every three years."

Mok, the 2013 Myanmar SEA Games marathon winner, also took part in the same event, and finished in 1:08:22 - a hugely creditable effort considering this was his comeback race.

It was the first in 15 months since he was hit by a string of injuries.

The 27-year-old, who is currently training in Boulder, Colorado, said he had no expectations going into the race.

"Six months ago, I was just doing easy running for training and only managed to get in some solid training over the last three months.

"So I'm happy with this progress.

"I was just curious to see how I can perform but, of course, at the back of my mind, (wanted) to get as close to my best as I could," he said.

Both Singaporeans ran at least half the race in the same group and were within a second of each other for 10km before Soh started to break away in the last 5km.

Soh, an undergraduate at the University of Oregon, said the 40 days he had spent at Flagstaff, Arizona before the San Jose race proved beneficial. He also trained on the high-altitude hilly terrain, about 2,130m high, before competing in the marathon in June's SEA Games, which he won.

Another crucial factor, he said, was his training partner in Flagstaff - Jordan Chipangama, who won the event in a time of 1:03:00.

The Zambian has a personal best of 2:11:35 in the marathon.

Said Soh: "I've a lot to learn from him. I do about 60 to 70 per cent of my runs with him. He's a lot better than I am so, whenever it fits, I'll train with him.

"More than anything, it opens up my mind to what the human body can do. When you spend time with guys who can run a marathon in 2:12, 2:11, you start to believe."

Both Soh and Mok are hoping to qualify for the Olympic Games next year. The qualifying mark is 2:17, well under Murugiah Rameshon's 20-year-old national record of 2:24:22.

Soh's personal best is 2:26:01 while Mok's is 2:26:30.

Soh's next race will be the Fukuoka International Open Marathon Championship in December.

He said: "If I can do this now, I think I can go a lot faster for my marathon in December.

"At the end of the day, I can't get carried away with this race.

"My goal race is in December."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2015, with the headline 'Soh rocks in U.S. with half marathon mark'. Print Edition | Subscribe