Athletics: From private pain to personal best for marathoner Soh Rui Yong

Soh Rui Yong came within 33 seconds of the national record when he clocked 2hr 24min 55sec in Chicago. His time also sees him qualify for the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur next year.
Soh Rui Yong came within 33 seconds of the national record when he clocked 2hr 24min 55sec in Chicago. His time also sees him qualify for the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur next year.PHOTO: COURTESY OF SOH RUI YONG

Soh overcomes foot injury, clocks 2:24:55 at Chicago Marathon, 33sec off national mark

National marathoner Soh Rui Yong left behind the pain, doubt and frustration that have dogged him for the past 11 months yesterday in the Windy City, clocking a personal best at the Chicago Marathon.

His time of 2hr 24min 55sec puts him well under Singapore Athletics' qualifying mark for next year's SEA Games - a 2:37:10 pegged to the bronze result of the last edition. And he is hoping to become the first male marathoner to retain a title at the biennial competition in Kuala Lumpur.

The result also betters the 2:26:01 Soh clocked on his marathon debut at the California International Marathon almost two years ago.

More significantly, at just 33 seconds off M. Rameshon's national record (2:24:22), it is the closest anyone has got to the 21-year-old mark.

Running pain-free only in June after a troubling foot injury had set the 25-year-old back since November last year, Soh was naturally pleased. He had been struggling with plantar fasciitis - tissue inflammation at the bottom of his left foot.

He said yesterday's result was something he had worked tirelessly for - be it through daily rehabilitation exercises on his road to recovery, or with each strenuous mile he clocked while training in the United States.

He told The Straits Times over the phone: "Being able to go through all of it, and come back even stronger than I was before injury - it shows how much I've grown as a runner.

"I'm more relieved than anything. It's a good end to the toughest year of running I've had and makes up for the disappointment of not qualifying for the Olympics."

A business graduate from the University of Oregon, Soh had taken his training to high altitude in the lead-up to the Chicago Marathon, a major marathon certified Gold Label by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Two weeks in July were spent in the mountains of Mammoth Lakes, California, while he has been based out of Flagstaff, Arizona over the last two months.

Soh started steadily in yesterday's race, although his pace of just under 35 minutes over the first 10km were his slowest of the entire marathon.

Waking up later than he had planned to, and a haphazard start - where he was sent in the wrong direction for the elite runners' tent - may have something to do with that.

"Running is a lot like life. Nothing is going to go according to plan all the time. You just got to make the best of what you have," said Soh, who added he was especially thankful for people and sponsors who stood by him.

"When people who used to support you start doubting you, that's something that can eat away at you.

"I'm far from being at 100 per cent. To be able to do this today off just nine weeks of training that I pretty much planned myself is something I take a lot of confidence from."

Soh, who is a Sport Singapore (SportSG) scholar, will be homebound to begin work after packing up his belongings in Flagstaff.

He intends to meet top SportSG officials to work out a training plan for next August's SEA Games.

Until then, his usual post-race reward - with a special treat added - awaits: beer, and some Chicago deep-dish pizza.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2016, with the headline 'From private pain to personal best'. Print Edition | Subscribe