Run With Mok

Running: Discipline, science vital in the long run

(Above) Steven Quek's scientific approach to running taught Mok Ying Ren how to train smart during his junior days and it continues to have a positive influence on him. (Left): Mok with Lee Troop, under whom he trained at the Boulder Track Club in Co
Mok with Lee Troop, under whom he trained at the Boulder Track Club in Colorado in 2015 for his Rio Olympic bid. ST FILE PHOTOS
(Above) Steven Quek's scientific approach to running taught Mok Ying Ren how to train smart during his junior days and it continues to have a positive influence on him. (Left): Mok with Lee Troop, under whom he trained at the Boulder Track Club in Co
Steven Quek's scientific approach to running taught Mok Ying Ren how to train smart during his junior days and it continues to have a positive influence on him.ST FILE PHOTOS

Want to run a full marathon in eight months from now? National marathoner Mok Ying Ren will help you prepare to tackle a 42.195km race. Starting today, he will helm a weekly series which aims to get runners ready to meet their goals. He will also be conducting exclusive coaching for runners in both The Straits Times Run in July and The Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore run in December.

Running, though seemingly simple, is multi-faceted. This is something which I have come to terms with over the course of my sporting career and after having had the privilege of working with experts from various fields in distance running.

How should I train? What methods work best? Are there any secrets to great running? These are questions many runners ask.

And it can be daunting when faced with an overload of easily accessible information from books, the Internet or even through hearsay from your friends.

However, without a running coach, it may be difficult for one to decipher and make sense of all of this information, especially if different sources seem to contradict each other.

This is where I come in.

Through this column, I, together with a team of sports specialists, hope to enable you to embark on your very own running journey this year and to guide you as you traverse your way through what promises to be an exciting road ahead.

For eight months, we will help you prepare for two runs, to tackle the 18.45km at The Straits Times Run in July and then either the 21km or the 42.195km full marathon in December's Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore.

We will help you plan a training schedule, offer you tips, and also conduct running clinics and workshops.

But the hard work can come next week.

To start off this series, I would simply just like to share my experiences working with two distance-running coaches (and their respective coaching styles).

The first is Steven Quek, then the coach of the Raffles Junior College's athletics team and whom I had trained under when I was a student of the school. He was a no-nonsense coach who strictly enforced discipline at every training session.

I even recall almost being kicked out of the athletics team for being too playful. But despite the minor misgivings which we may have shared back then, he has been and continues to be a positive influence on the way I approach running.

His approach to designing and implementing his training programmes for the team was largely based on science. It was then that I was fully exposed to the science and mechanics of running, and introduced to the true meaning of the phrase "training smart".

Since then, I have held the firm belief that the ability to run well is essentially achieved through a combination of science and hard work. Even till today, many of my practices are still modelled on his teachings.

The second coach to have a major impact on my running is Lee Troop, a four-time Australian Olympic marathoner who is the elite running coach at the Boulder Track Club in Colorado, United States.

In 2015, I took a year of unpaid leave from work and headed to the club to train under Lee in an attempt to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics marathon. The experience of training full-time with Olympic-calibre athletes in Colorado was definitely an eye-opening and life-changing one for me.

Although I did not manage to meet the Olympic qualifying mark eventually, the year spent training under him was not in vain and I have absolutely no regrets about it. It was during this phase of my athletic career that I realised it would probably take a lot more than just pure science and hard work to excel in running.

It is interesting to note that despite all the scientific and technological advancements in the past decades, marathon records have not been falling. The United States, Australia and Japan are nations all respected for their sports science. Yet their marathon records were all clocked in 2002 or earlier.

While, admittedly, there have been some outlying performances which have resulted in world records being rewritten, how much of it is truly attributable to scientific advancements? The answer to this question remains open.

How then to make sense of it all? That's what my team and I are here for - to help your running journey be a fulfilling and rewarding one.

•Mok Ying Ren is a double SEA Games gold medallist in the triathlon (2007) and marathon (2013) events. He has a personal best of 2hr 26min 7sec. He is managed by ONEathlete.

 Mok with Lee Troop, under whom he trained at the Boulder Track Club in Co

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2017, with the headline 'Discipline, science vital in the long run'. Print Edition | Subscribe