Athletics

Soh: The race of my life

SEA Games marathon champion Soh shares how proper hydration contributed to his success

We all know that hydration is an important part of sports.

But how many people are truly aware of the importance of hydrating with the right fluid during sports?

In fact, a conscientious attention to hydration with H-TWO-O was what won me the SEA Games marathon gold medal in Kuala Lumpur last month, despite being ranked only the fourth-fastest runner.

On Aug 19, I felt relaxed yet intense, as I geared up mentally and physically for what lay ahead: 42.195km in the 
26-deg C heat and 89-per-cent humidity in Putrajaya.

I was the defending champion and had slashed my personal best from 2hr 26min 01sec to 2:24:55 since the 2015 SEA Games, but the rest of the field had become even faster.

Three runners at the start line had faster personal bests than me - Bui The Anh of Vietnam (2:24:12), 2015 silver medallist Boonthung Srisung of Thailand (2:24:01), and Agus Prayogo (2:21:07), the overwhelming favourite from Indonesia.

I did a five-minute warm-up jog, then made my way to the reporting tent at 5.30am.

We were there for about 20 minutes and I paced the length of the seven-metre tent like a caged animal.

I felt intense, but strangely zen at the same time. I was ready to go out there and take anything the rest of South-east Asia could throw at me.

When the gun went off at 6am, I was the quickest off the line, then slowed down and settled into sixth place.

Patience is the name of the game, I told myself. Winning would not just take a good physical performance, but a careful strategy as well.

As I anticipated, Agus moved into the lead early. His marathon pace, which would see him finish in about 2hr 28min, was not particularly quick, but not many in the region can hold that pace under those conditions.

I felt the effects of the high humidity after just 3km and I was sweating a lot. I needed to hydrate as much as possible and water alone was inadequate.

I needed a proper hydration beverage such as H-TWO-O to replace my lost electrolytes, especially calcium, potassium and sodium, in order to avoid cramps in the later stages.

Sufficient hydration of H-TWO-O would also provide rapid energy from carbohydrates and this is important in endurance sports such as the marathon, especially in the heat and humidity.

At my first water station, I grabbed my first H-TWO-O bottle and drank all 500ml over the course of 400 metres.

I had eight water stations in total (approximately one every 5km) and, while I can usually get by with less hydration, I told myself that I had to drink as much as I could, given the ridiculously high humidity.

Every time I grabbed a H-TWO-O bottle, I would lose ground on the leaders because they would sip quickly on their drinks and toss them aside within seconds, while I would hold on to mine for almost 1½ minutes.

But, to me, each water station was like a bank investment - putting in the money to bank on the possibility that it would pay off in the long run.

As we entered the final 10km, it turned into an exciting three-way battle among Agus, Boonthung and myself.

As I steeled myself for a crazy surge to the finish line, Boonthung suddenly pulled up with cramps.

An ambulance was sent to get him - dehydration had claimed its first victim of the race.

STRATEGY

I stuck to the same strategy - staying patient, hydrating well and keeping calm.

The further we got into the race, the more confident I felt, thanks to my hydration plan.

As we entered the final 3km, the blistering pace that Agus had set from the start had slowed, and I knew that it was time to use my final gear.

As I launched my finishing drive, Agus succumbed to the humidity and was unable to cover my move.

I pulled away from him and the final 1km was a victory lap, as I had a lead of one minute over my friend and rival.

I celebrated with the Malaysian supporters, waved at my cheering family, and raised my arms in triumph as I crossed the line in 2:29:27 - the fastest time a Singaporean had ever run in the tropical heat and humidity of either Singapore or Malaysia.

Then I turned and waited. Agus came in less than two minutes later, and I kneeled with my arms up - paying respect to one of the greatest South-east Asian runners of all time.

It was special to be the first Singaporean to win back-to-back marathon crowns, but it was even more special to share the moment with a runner who had inspired me so much.


TIPS TO #RUNSOHFAST

  • For long-distance runs, hydrate with an isotonic drink such as H-TWO-O Original.
  • Never compromise on drinking breaks during the run as you will need to replenish
  • the electrolytes, fluids and carbohydrates lost while running.
  • Determine your amount of fluid loss or sweat rate by weighing yourself before and after your workout. For every 1kg of weight loss, replenish with 1 litre of fluid.

H-TWO-O HYDRATION TIP

  • Choose a non-carbonated isotonic drink with invigorating flavour as it encourages more consumption for optimal hydration.
  • Avoid carbonated or fizzy drinks during sports as they may cause bloating, nausea and stomach discomfort.
  • Avoid caffeine-induced drinks as they may cause your kidneys to produce more urine and may cause dehydration.
Soh Rui YongSEA GamesMarathon