Athletics

Soh ready to defend SEA Games marathon title

Soh pleased with his strength and speed as he gears up for the defence of his marathon title

Saturday, July 8. Flagstaff, Arizona.

"5:29... You gotta slow down!", my coach Ben Rosario yelled, as I crossed the second mile of my 12-mile (19.3km) steady-state run, which is done at or close to marathon race pace. My target was a pace of 5min 45sec per mile.

Done at an altitude of 7,000 feet (2,134m), each mile is about 15 seconds harder than it would be at sea level.

A consistent pace of 5:30 per mile would mean a 2hr 24min 12sec marathon timing. My personal best is 2:24:55.

My first mile was a 5:35, already 10 seconds faster than my target, and now I had gone even faster.

Ben was worried that the run was turning into a hard effort rather than a steady one, with me potentially blowing up at the end.

But as I crossed the third mile in 5:39, grabbing my H-TWO-O bottle for fluids - I have a fluid station set up every three miles - I knew I was going to be fine.

The carbohydrates were refuelling my working muscles and helping to replace my lost electrolytes.

Marathon effort never felt this comfortable.

My mind turned back to my training in Flagstaff in the last few months.

Heading into altitude camp on April 20, I was far from being in good shape, as I had just got back into the swing of things after taking a two-week break in early March.

Rather than jumping straight back into marathon training, I suggested to Ben that we do some shorter distance races to hone my speed and efficiency, before going back into the grind of marathon workouts.

So, instead of high-mileage weeks and long steady-state runs, we mixed 60- to 75-minute morning runs with track workouts, drills and plyometric exercises.

As I had developed a nasty case of plantar fasciitis (heel pain) in my right foot while training on the hard surfaces in Singapore, I was content to run a little less mileage for the time being.

Over time, the drills, the strides, the little things started to pay off and I felt the spring in my step return - I felt smoother and more powerful in every workout.

Last month, we decided it was time to race. We decided to do the Portland Track Festival 5,000m in Oregon and the Hamburg Half Marathon in Germany - my only races before the SEA Games.

The 5,000m race went well - I finished sixth in my race in a personal best of 14min 55sec, bettering my previous record by three seconds and coming just four off the Singapore record.

Two weeks later in Germany, and without any half-marathon specific workouts, I ran my second-fastest time - 67min 44sec - in rainy, windy conditions.

RACE PREPARATION

With two solid races under my belt, I got back to Flagstaff, took one week easy, then hopped back into my marathon workouts.

The 12-mile steady state was my first marathon-specific workout of the cycle.

Going back to marathon effort after all the faster running felt awesome.

I ran relaxed the whole way, and split 5:40 or under for each of the 12 miles, racking up a total time of 67:14 with an average pace of 5:36 - comfortably faster than the pre-workout target of 5:45.

With three miles' warm-up and three miles' cool-down, it was a big 18-mile (29km) day.

Ben and I were happy with it.

The SEA Games marathon race on Aug 19 will be the first time I'm going into a marathon with both strength and track speed.

Till then, I will focus on sharpening my tools, knowing that it doesn't matter whether the race is slow or fast, or if the weather is rainy or hot.

I will have all the weapons in my arsenal to deal with them.


TIPS TO #RUNSOHFAST

  • When on a long run, pre-hydrate two to three hours before with an isotonic drink and every 20 to 30 minutes to avoid dehydration, cramps and heat injuries.
  • The easiest way to do a hydration test is to check your urine colour.
  • At optimal hydration, your urine colour should be pale light yellow, but if it is dark yellow, it means you are dehydrated and this will negatively impact your performance.
  • Isotonic drinks such as H-TWO-O are performance enhancers. So start your 
own hydration strategy.
  • The steady-state run is an important workout for marathon training. It teaches the body race-day rhythm and prepares 
the mind and body for the effort required 
on race day.

H-TWO-O HYDRATION TIP

  • Avoid caffeine-induced drinks as it causes your kidneys to produce more urine and 
may lead to dehydration.
MarathonSoh Rui YongSEA Games