It was just a shade over three seconds but that made all the difference as the 41-year-old 10,000m national record finally came tumbling down.
The new mark was set on Saturday by Soh Rui Yong, who ran 31min 15.95sec at the Portland Track Festival in the United States to eclipse the 31:19.0 mark set by P.C. Suppiah at the 1973 Asian Track and Field Championships in the Philippines.
"I had to run this race all alone (without a pace-setter) because nobody wanted to run at my pace," said Soh, a Sport Singapore scholarship holder who is pursuing a business administration degree at the University of Oregon (UO). "But it makes it special, knowing that I set the record all by myself."
It is a dream come true for the 22-year-old, who had been eyeing the record since his school days at Hwa Chong Institution and Raffles Institution.
He went into the race with his usual preparation: Eight to nine sessions a week spent on workouts, gym sessions and mileage or recovery runs.
"I didn't expect to have to run the whole thing alone, so that made it a lot harder," said Soh, whose previous personal best (PB) was 32:26, set at the ASEAN University Games in 2012.
He transferred to UO from the National University of Singapore in December, after spending a term there on exchange.
Soh has been training with Team Run Eugene in Oregon under the tutelage of American Ian Dobson, who represented the US at the 2008 Olympics.
His decision to move abroad to train with world-class athletes has started to pay off; he has set new PBs in the 5,000m, 10,000m and half-marathon this year.
However, he feels he still has room to improve in terms of speed and endurance, but it depends on which event he eventually specialises in.
Fellow national long-distance runner Mok Ying Ren, 25, says that Soh's success demonstrates that results are best achieved with undisturbed training.
"I think this is a huge step for Singapore athletics. It shows clearly that for distance running, being able to train in a good climate and with a good team is very helpful," added Mok, who broke the national half-marathon mark earlier this month in New Zealand.
Soh's mark was the second long-standing record broken last week, after Zubin Mucherji smashed Godfrey Jalleh's 400m record at the Asian Junior Athletics Championships last Thursday.
Zubin's record was one of three national marks set at the Asian Junior meet in Taipei.
Shanti Pereira's 23.99sec in the 200m yesterday is a new national, junior, Under-23 and U-19 record, erasing her own mark of 24.12 set at last year's SEA Games.
The time was good enough for her to take the silver behind India's Dutee Chand (23.74).
On Saturday, Jannah Wong set a new 100m hurdles mark of 14.14sec.
Soh said that he saw the "super-talented" Zubin's mark coming and that the tumbling of records could be more than mere coincidence.
"It could be the SEA Games coming up," he said. "Everyone knows it's time to buck up and perform."
This article was first published on June 16, 2014.
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