SINGAPORE - Twice SEA Games champion Soh Rui Yong has another shot at breaking the Singapore record at the Seoul Marathon next Sunday (March 17) after missing last weekend's Tokyo race, and he is aiming to lower it in style.
The 27-year-old is gunning for 2hr 22min. The national record is 2:24:22, set at the 1995 SEA Games by Murugiah Rameshon.
Soh found out 10 days before the Tokyo race that he had been allocated to the mass start pen instead of the elite and sub-elite priority pen, and decided to withdraw as he felt this set-up "would not do justice to my record attempt".
He acknowledged the hiccup affected him psychologically.
"Just as I thought I was done with my training and was ready to taper down and rest for the race, I had to extend my training by two weeks," he told The Straits Times. "It felt like I had just finished a long-distance race on the track, only to be told that I had to run one more lap."
But he has put the incident behind him and is confident of posting a good time in Seoul.
Soh, whose personal best of 2:24:55 was clocked at the 2016 Chicago Marathon, says he has been getting faster at some of the workouts he had been doing since the lead-up to that race.
For example, before Chicago, he did 25.8km at a training camp at Flagstaff in Arizona at 3min 31sec per kilometre, but improved to 3:28/km in his latest stint at the same place last month, which lasted more than five weeks.
He said: "Running faster in training doesn't necessarily translate to racing better. But based on the effort level I used on these workouts, I'd say I have a good feeling about Seoul."
A time of 2:22 would rank Soh fifth at the 2018 Asian Games if he had competed and, more importantly, put him closer to reaching the 2020 Olympic qualifying time, which has yet to be announced.
He added: "The big goal for this year and next is to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games, so I need to get faster and stronger. The performance in Seoul would give me feedback on what's working and what I need to improve on."
The qualifying time for the men's marathon at the 2016 Rio Games was 2:19, which is also USA Track and Field's minimum standard for athletes aiming to make it to their 2020 team in Tokyo.
Soh, who set the half marathon national record of 1:06:41 in January, said of trying to shave six minutes off his marathon personal best: "The marathon is 99 per cent aerobic strength, and there's no shortcut to building an aerobic engine than month after month of hard work... sometimes for the work you put in this year, you might only see the real harvest next year.
"The key seems to be finding a training programme that is sustainable and provides steady improvement, and stay in the sport as long as possible for me to find my full potential in the marathon."