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Q&A with Soh Rui Yong by Singapore Athletics

17 hours to race time! Did a Q&A with Singapore Athletics ahead of tomorrow's World Championships, check it out here. Been working hard for this and am excited to see how fast I can go while racing the world's best!

Training in Camp Verde, Arizona. Photo by Hayley Ney.

Q1 - How's your condition now?

Having spent the last month at high altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona to get ready for this race, I'm very happy with my current condition. Being able to get away from work, social life and other distractions back home has allowed me to focus on training, rest, and nutrition, which has allowed me to get some good workouts in and build a level of fitness that I'm happy with.

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Q2 - What's your preparation been like?

I usually train twice a day, a longer run or a workout in the morning and a shorter recovery run in the evening. I've averaged between 130km and 160km a week since getting to Flagstaff on 19th February. Most of my runs are done at 7000ft altitude, making each kilometre harder than it would be at sea level (about 25% less oxygen avaliable due to air pressure for every breath I take at 7000ft). I suffered a lot in workouts for the first 2 weeks before getting used to it and having some good workouts.

For more details on my training program, check out my weekly training log at

www.secondwindnation.com/post/chasing-new-summits-soh-rui-yong-week-3-if-youre-gonna-be-dumb-you-better-be-tough

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Q3 - Your race plans and goals in Spain?

I will be racing the best athletes in the world in Spain and plan to bring my A game. I am not afraid of going out hard and trying to hold on to superior runners, and I believe that can help to bring out my best ever performance if I have a good day. The key is to take smart risks and put myself in the position to make big breakthroughs. Based on my training, I think I have a shot of being the first Singaporean to run under 67:00 if race day conditions are good. I haven't had good conditions in an overseas half marathon in a while as my last 4 half marathons have been 67:56 (Cardiff World Champs 2016) 67:53 (Marugame 2017), 67:44 (Hamburg 2017) and 68:37 (Marugame 2018) in rain, rain & wind, and strong winds & snow. Hoping it will be fourth time lucky!

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Q4 - This race, how does it fit in your year-long macrocycle or 4-year planning cycle. Are you peaking at this stage?

For the year-long cycle, this is probably a key performance test 9 weeks out from the Ottawa Marathon, which is my goal race for the first half of 2018. In terms of a 4-year cycle, World Half is about gathering more experience against the world's best that I can use to qualify for and then compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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Q5 - Your thoughts on local distance running progress. What can be done to improve it?

I believe that we have lots of talented distance runners and we should be doing a lot better than we are currently. Growing up, I was never the most talented runner. I just stayed in the sport longer and worked harder and smarter than most of my more talented competitors. I would say that Singapore Athletics has to come up with a training system and a competition platform that supports the good work that distance coaches such as G Elangovan (Trackstar) and Steven Quek (ActiveSG Athletics Club) are doing with their athletes.

We have to keep them in the sport for much longer than we are doing now and provide them with more meaningful competitions to aid in sustaining interest and developing racing tactics and experience. Unlike the sprints or jumps, long distance running is a sport for late bloomers where athletes peak later after accumulating years of mileage and aerobic development under their belts. For example, its common to find 18 year olds running very fast in the 100m, but you don't see many 18 year olds running eye-popping times in the marathon.

Sports officials with a short-sighted approach look at these results and say, "we have more talent in the sprints then the distance events!" but that is not the case - the distance runners just need more time to develop, and at the moment we are not doing a great job of keeping distance runners in the sport.

When I retire from my own running career I aim build an ecosystem for our distance runners to train, compete, and fulfill the potential that we have in distance running.

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Q6 - Share insight with us a few upcoming young local distance running talents

Obviously Lui Yuan Chow based in Australia is a bright talent, though I'm unsure about his situation with regards to choosing SIngapore or Australian citizenship. Closer to home, we have lots of promising runners than can become SEA Games champions, and possibly go even further, with the proper development: Shohib Marican, Syed Hussein, Tan Chong Qi, Timothy Liau, just to name a few promising ones on the guys' side.

On the ladies' side, Vanessa Lee and Nicole Low from Trackstar Athletics have shown pretty good results for their age over the last couple of years. But again, having the potential is one thing. Realising it is another. I hope Singapore Athletics can focus more on developing these young distance athletes and I'm happy to help in a mentor capacity.

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Q7 - Any stories from Flagstaff when you were there. Anything major happened?

Well I got injured last week doing some hill sprints... important reminder that we must always be progressive in training, and never too aggressive!

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Q8 - Tell us about the support you are are getting from your employer & association?

Sport Singapore let me go on No-Pay Leave and I applied for and was granted with the Sport Excellence Grant in Loss of Wages (SpexGLOW) which reimburses my salary for up to $2000/month, so I'm thankful for the support coming in that way from the government's side of things.

Singapore Athletics helps with competition expenses, so I'm very thankful for that as well. What was kind of disappointing last year is that my coach's stipend from Singapore Athletics got discontinued after we won the SEA Games in August 2017, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Thankfully, I've had private sponsorships from ASICS and H-TWO-O that allow me to pay my coach to guide me. I believe a good coach is important to any athlete training to achieve sporting success at a high level. If you go it alone, you probably won't succeed as there are so many potholes - injury, overtraining, wrong periodization, etc. But of course, having no coach is probably still better than having a bad coach...

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Q9 - Your current struggle and what are you doing to overcome it?

Well I miss my family and my girlfriend Charmaine when I'm away for so long! I keep in touch with them with Whatsapp messages and calls. Charmaine and I video call each other twice a day, first thing in the morning and last thing at night, so we have see each other despite the time difference. That's probably the hardest part about being away from home but it's one of the sacrifices you have to make to be a good athlete.

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Q10 - Fun qns, items you bring to a marathon?

ASICS Gel-451 racers, H-Two-O hydration drinks, my A game!

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Q11 - Fun qns, talent vs passion - Which one wins?

Passion always. You can't achieve anything without heart.

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© 2018 by SOH RUI YONG.

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