National marathoner Mok Ying Ren travelled to Seoul last week with the ambition of meeting the qualifying mark for the Aug 19-31 SEA Games.
After his feet carried him 42.195km around the city, he will fly home not only with a probable ticket to the Kuala Lumpur Games, but also a personal best and some priceless self-assurance.
He clocked 2hr 26min 7sec at the Seoul International Marathon yesterday, going well under the qualifying mark of 2:37:10.
It should earn him a SEA Games berth alongside defending champion Soh Rui Yong, who also cleared the mark with a 2:24:55 run at the Chicago Marathon last October.
All selections are subject to approval by the Singapore National Olympic Council.
While a personal best is an achievement for any athlete, yesterday's result - under his previous mark of 2:26:30 set in 2013 - was all the more notable for Mok.
The 28-year-old spent a year training full-time in Boulder, Colorado but has had to halve his training load after returning last June.
He now juggles training with work as an orthopaedic surgical resident.
"It's something positive that I can take away," he told The Straits Times over the phone from Seoul. "It's assurance that I'm moving in the right direction in training."
Mok conceded, though, that the race conditions were ideal for him.
With temperatures hovering around 10 deg C and a relatively flat route, the marathoner was able to keep up with the elite women - who typically finish in about 2:24 - until the last few km of the race.
He added: "It's a good thing that I managed to (qualify) despite my work demands."
Mok now clocks about 80km to 100km a week, down from up to 180km a week when he was training full-time in the United States.
Running to work, or home from the National University Hospital, has now become the 2013 SEA Games champion's way of commuting and training.
"In a way, sometimes when you have less expectations, you tend to do better and that's how many of my good races so far have gone," said Mok, the Republic's first male marathon champion at the biennial Games. He withdrew from the 2015 edition on home soil due to injury.
With a scheduled posting to the anaesthesia department and greater work demands when he returns to his home speciality in July, he said his plans for training will continue to be the same.
He said: "I'll just take it as it comes, just focusing on the key runs that I have to do - just do the work that I need to do and control what I can."
His qualification means fellow marathoner Ashley Liew is no longer in the running. The 30-year-old clocked 2:38:30 at the Tokyo Marathon last month.
Meanwhile, race walker Edmund Sim also met the SEA Games qualifying mark yesterday.
He clocked 1:36:53 over 20km at the Asian Race Walking Championships in Nomi, Japan, going under the required 1:40:57.