Marathon comes before 10k

SEA Games medal hopeful Soh Rui Yong may be entered in two events for the upcoming biennial meet - but faced with 52.195km of running in four days, he is clear where his priorities lie.

The 23-year-old, who holds the national 10,000m record of 31min 15.95sec and is the fastest active local marathoner with a personal best 2hr 26min 1sec, told The Straits Times: "For now, the focus is the marathon.

"Unfortunately, anyone who runs a marathon knows that three days is not ideal to recover for another hard race.

"We'll see what happens after but if I feel that I'm in a good enough shape to win a medal in the 10k after the marathon, I see no reason why I wouldn't run."

Last Friday, Singapore Athletics (SA) revealed that he will be competing in both events - Soh is the favourite in the marathon based on known timings.

But some eyebrows were raised given that the 10,000m - on June 10 - comes close on the heels of the marathon on June 7.

Explaining SA's decision to nominate Soh for both, president Tang Weng Fei said: "He's our best 10k runner and that's why we decided to pick him for both events.

"But we are not going to force Rui Yong to run the 10k if he doesn't think he can manage both. He will listen to his body and decide."

Joining Soh in the marathon is Ashley Liew while Melvin Wong occupies the other spot in the 10,000m. Each country can field two athletes per event.

One athlete who has run in two gruelling events in the Games is K. Jayamani, who clinched the 3,000m bronze and marathon gold at the 1983 edition.

"I could do both because the 3,000m race came first," she said.

"If it was the other way round, I'm not sure I could have recovered in time because the marathon takes a lot out of you."

Tang added that Soh's promising form gave him hope that the athlete can do well in at least the marathon, won by Singapore's Mok Ying Ren at the last SEA Games in Myanmar in 2:28:36.

The latter is out of the running this year owing to an injury.

Last Friday, following a 26-day high altitude training stint at Flagstaff, Arizona, Soh became the third Singaporean to break the 15-minute barrier over 5,000m, timing 14:58.

This marks the latest in a series of breakthroughs for the University of Oregon undergraduate.

Last June, he set the national 10,000m mark at the Portland Track Festival.

Less than six months later, making his debut at the California International Marathon, Soh timed 2:26:01, the second-fastest Singaporean time.

Murugiah Rameshon holds the national record of 2:24:22, set in the 1995 Games.

Despite his good form, the down-to-earth Soh is not kidding himself that he can emulate athletics legend Emil Zatopek's feats at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.

That year, the Czech torched the track with three distance-running golds, bagging the 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon titles. That meant four races (including the 5,000m heats) and a total of 60.195km in seven days.

Furthermore, Soh's 10,000m national mark is some way off the bronze-medal time of 30:25.33 at the last SEA Games.

Said the Sport Singapore scholar: "If it was the other way round, it would be a lot more doable. But I'm not counting myself out. I believe that if I get to Singapore in good shape, anything can happen.

"Preparing for the 10k will hone my ability to change gears.

"That will make me a more dangerous marathoner in a tactical situation."

This article was first published on April 21, 2015.
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