Athletics: Soh Rui Yong says he's in 'good shape' after claiming national half-marathon mark in Houston

Soh Rui Yong cheers as he runs past the finish line at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2018 on Dec 9, 2018.
Soh Rui Yong cheers as he runs past the finish line at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2018 on Dec 9, 2018.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - He is on a quest to break the national marathon record as well as to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

And, on Sunday (Jan 21), Soh Rui Yong produced further evidence that he is a man on form at the moment.

Fresh from being the Singaporean winner at last month's Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, the 27-year-old rewrote the national half-marathon record when he clocked 1hr 6min 46sec at the Houston Marathon in his first race of the year.

The previous national mark was held by Mok Ying Ren, who clocked 1:07:08 at the 2016 Arizona Rock & Roll Half Marathon. Soh also holds the 10,000m record of 31min 15.95sec which he set at the 2014 Portland Track Festival in Oregon in the United States.

"I always knew I could (break the national half-marathon record) as I know my ability," Soh told The Straits Times.

"The Houston course is generally very flat with very few inclines. Many Americans were there because they know this is a course where they can get fast times and, shortly after the start, packs formed. After 15km, I started to run my own race and the last 5km were probably one of the fastest I had ever run."

Prior to his race in Houston, he suffered from appendicitis and he is also nursing plantar fasciitis, the swelling of tissue in his right heel, for the past two years.

To Soh, who is the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games marathon champion, his achievement at the Lone Star State had some overdue good fortune attached to it.

Recalling his previous half-marathon attempts, he said: "There was an incredible storm at the Cardiff Half Marathon in 2016. A year later, at the Marugame Half Marathon (in Japan), it was rainy and windy. Similarly at Hamburg (in 2017), it was rainy and windy.

"Last year at Marugame, the race was affected by a blizzard. Even in Valencia, where it is usually sunny, the winds were so strong that the palm trees were swaying. My luck at half-marathons is usually horrible."

Soh also paid tribute to his coaches - Singaporean ActiveSG Athletics Club's distance running coach Steven Quek, and American Ben Rosario.

He said: "This is a special case of two coaches working together even though they have never met. It takes a lot of teamwork to coordinate workouts and training arrangements, but they are a great combo.

"Steven is a track guy while Ben is a marathon guy. Together, they helped me to produce this good performance in Houston."

Soh will remain in Flagstaff, Arizona, until Feb 24 to continue training. He will return to Singapore for a week before jetting off again to Japan for the Tokyo Marathon on March 3.

He said: "It's not very ideal as I would like to arrive in Japan early to get used to the time difference and conditions, but this is the best arrangement I have."

But Soh believes that he has what it takes to deliver a good performance in Japan, saying: "The personal best (for half-marathon) now does not guarantee anything in Tokyo, but it indicates that I am in good form.

"I ran the StanChart Singapore Marathon at 80 per cent (Soh was recovering from posterior tibial tendinosis in his left foot), and that showed that I am in good shape."