His legs were carrying him around the track, but the race was being run inside his head.
With his opponents either too fast or too slow, Soh Rui Yong was left running on his own at the Portland Track Festival in the US yesterday morning (Singapore time), but it didn't matter.
He was chasing P.C Suppiah and his 41-year-old 10,000 metres national record of 31 minutes and 19 seconds, the oldest mark standing in Singapore track and field.
Soh, 22, collapsed at the finish line, but not before writing his name into the history books, with a time of 31:15.95sec.
"I definitely knew of the history of the 10,000m event, and (beating Suppiah's record) is something I've been dreaming of since I was running in secondary school for Raffles Institution," Soh told The New Paper yesterday.
"With nine laps to go, I started hurting. With five laps to go, I started to hurt really bad and ran 76sec instead of 75sec (the pace that was required to hit mark)," he recalled.
"Luckily I rallied in the last lap and ran 70s to save the record attempt. It was a tough race."
While Soh was racing against a shadow, across the other side of the globe in Taiwan, Shanti Pereira was racing an opponent she called "a beast".
At the Asian Junior Athletics Championships' 200m final, Shanti lined up alongside the intimidating talent of India's Dutee Chand.
Shanti finished behind Dutee's gold-winning time of 23.74sec, but like Soh, stood tall.
Her time of 23.99 saw her break her previous national record of 24.12, becoming the first Singapore woman to go under 24 seconds.
"I was extremely nervous before the race, and because of (Dutee) I was extra scared... but I think I managed to go under 24 because of the push I got from the opponents here," she told TNP.
"I thought I could hit 23 this year, but I was definitely not expecting it on this trip."
Shanti has established herself as the Republic's fastest woman. Last year, she was the first Singaporean woman to go under 12 in the 100m when she crossed the line in 11.89 in the heats at the IAAF World Youth Championships.
Shanti and Soh's record-breaking feats have come on the back of a clutch of Singapore marks to have fallen recently.
In the last week, new marks were set in the women's 100m hurdles (Jannah Wong, 14.14) as well as the men's 400m (Zubin Muncherji, 47.29).
Singapore Athletics Association chief Tang Weng Fei says the recent feats are no flash in the pan.
Said Tang: "It's no fluke, this is the fruit of the development programme that has been put in place over the last four years.
"Our athletes have been training very diligently and gearing up nicely for the 2015 South-east Asia Games, and the future."
University of Oregon undergraduate, Soh, has rest on his mind before casting his eye on a half-marathon next month.
Shanti, still a little shocked, said she needs a little while before setting new targets.
"The goal was to go under 24, and now that I've hit that, I don't really know where to go from here," she said.
This article was first published on June 16, 2014.
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