It was just what the doctor ordered. Ironically, Singapore marathoner Mok Ying Ren was both doctor and "patient" in this case.
In one of his columns advising runners on how to prepare for last year's Straits Times Run At The Hub, he said one way to race well is to "run... by feel rather than be held hostage by a Global Positioning System (GPS) watch".
The doctor did just that at the Arizona Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on Sunday - and it paid off as he clocked a new national best time in the half marathon.
Dropping the GPS function and relying on the regular stopwatch mode instead, Mok, 27, timed 1hr 7min 8sec to go under the previous best time of 1:07:21 set by Soh Rui Yong last September.
Mok said yesterday: "My coach (Lee Troop) told me not to use the GPS watch as he wanted me to go by feel. I was very reliant on it for pacing and it's been about five to six years since I ran without a GPS watch, so I was lost at first.
"It was only in the last 100m when I realised the record was within reach that I went all out.
"Maybe it helped mentally because you can get demoralised if you are tired and off the pace."
He credits his latest result to Troop's new training regimen, which focuses on doing faster workouts at a lower volume.
He said: "The new programme was a drastic change and I had difficulty buying in at first. This (result) gives me confidence that I'm on the right track."
The 2013 SEA Games marathon champion is training full time in a bid to qualify for August's Olympics. The qualifying mark is 2:19:00, while his personal best is 2:26:30, clocked in 2013. The qualifying window closes on July 11.
He is currently based at the Boulder Track Club in Colorado, under the guidance of Troop, a marathoner who represented Australia thrice at the Olympics.
The national best time also marks an upturn in fortunes for Mok, who has suffered setback after setback over the last 18 months.
In 2014, he withdrew from the Commonwealth Games because of a shin injury. Last June, he pulled out of the SEA Games after hurting his left gluteal muscle.
Then, in October, a freak training accident saw an elastic band hit him in the eyes, causing a partial tear in his right retina. He could not see with his right eye for several hours after the accident.
"I've had a lot of ups and downs since 2014, so I'm just happy to find that I'm performing at a level better than two years ago," said Mok, who is putting his National University Health System orthopaedic surgery residency on hold to chase his Olympic dream.
"It has been a drought of good results from me. I was definitely worried. I thank my sponsors, family and fiancee for sticking by me."
He will resume training in Colorado before trying to qualify for Rio at an as-yet unnamed marathon.
"Usually after each personal best, I'm often injured," said an upbeat Mok. "But now I don't feel anything, my eye is OK, and I want to build on this."
This article was first published on January 19, 2016.
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