It's not often a distance runner cites a boxing flick as an inspiration.
But a chance viewing of the 2006 movie Rocky Balboa - the sixth instalment in the famous Rocky franchise - helped national runner Soh Rui Yong overcome injury and bad weather to complete his race at the World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff, Wales, on Saturday.
The 24-year-old clocked 1hr 7min 56sec - 35 seconds off his personal best at the Rock n Roll San Jose Half Marathon in California last September - and another 13 seconds off Mok Ying Ren's national best (1:07:08). He finished 64th out of 99 runners.
Soh, who won the South-east Asia (SEA) Games marathon gold on home soil last June, raced in Wales after a seven-week training stint in Iten, Kenya. He hopes the stint will boost his chances of qualifying for the marathon at August's Olympics.
About five kilometres into the 21km race in Cardiff, he suffered a flare-up of an old plantar fasciitis injury - an inflammation of a thick band of tissue at the bottom of one's foot - he first picked up last November.
Remembering the Italian Stallion in the boxing ring, however, helped him push through the pain barrier.
"Three days ago, on the flight here, I was watching the Rocky movie," said Soh.
"At one point, Rocky's opponent (Mason Dixon) punched him and broke his hand, but he continued because he figured, at some point, the pain would numb.
"With that in my mind, and because I was wearing the national kit and representing Singapore at the world championships, I decided to keep going despite the injury.
"Around the 12km mark, I could feel my left heel was twice the size of my right. But, by then, the pain was just dull and aching."
Strong winds and slippery, hilly roads, also affected the runners.
"The wind speed was 42kmh. That's a 60-minute marathon pace," said Soh.
"Usually, the last 5km is my fastest 5km, but that's when the wind became so bad."
Ideally, Soh wants to remain in the United Kingdom and prepare for the London Marathon on April 24.
He has up till July 11 to lower his personal best of 2:26:01 to meet the Olympic qualifying mark of 2:19:00.
But he might have to return to Singapore to get his foot treated, should the injury not improve over the next two days.
"I managed the injury during my time in Kenya, and felt my plantar flare up only after doing faster workouts," he said.
"So I guess it explains why it happened.
"I was running longer, faster, and I was wearing (thinner) race shoes.
"Running with hard rain and slippery roads doesn't help. It was quite brutal."
This article was first published on March 28, 2016.
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