Sports

Soh's comeback at Chicago Marathon on Oct 9

I'm ready for the Chicago Marathon, says SOH RUI YONG

I sit here writing this column with just 10 days to go to the Chicago Marathon, coming off my highest ever mileage week, clocking up 185km.

About 10 weeks ago, I wasn't even able to run because of a plantar fasciitis injury.

What a crazy year it has been.

After a promising start to 2016, I tore my foot at the World Half Marathon Championships in March, effectively ending any chance I had of qualifying for the Rio Olympics.

Cue weeks after weeks of cross training and countless hours on the stationary bike and in the pool.

Running fast again was the last thing on my mind then. I just wanted to be a healthy, functional person again.

Thankfully, the combination of time off my feet and intensive physiotherapy work with experts Chris Whetstein and Mike Donowa - both in Eugene, Oregon, where I am based - I worked on not just the symptoms of my problem, but also the causes of it.

My problems were down to structural issues and a lack of flexibility and strength in my left toes.

By late June, I was running pain-free again and had started looking at the calendar to plan what my next race would be.

My crippling injury meant that I did not have time to squeeze in a qualifying race for Rio, so I moved on to the next big goal - my marathon title defence at the 2017 South-east Asia Games (SEA Games) in Kuala Lumpur.

Winning two SEA Games marathons in a row is something that no Singaporean athlete has accomplished.

The heavy training required to run a high-level marathon brings a big risk of injury - something that I am all too familiar with.

The last time I raced a marathon fit and fully healthy was on June 6, 2015.

Coming down with plantar fasciitis five months later meant I had miserable experiences at both the Fukuoka and London marathons, where my left foot failed to hold up to 42.195km of pounding.

It has been frustrating and sometimes downright demoralising to see months of time, money, hard work and sacrifices go up in smoke because of one sore foot.

Until now.

Since making a 20-hour drive from Eugene and basing myself in the mountains of Mammoth Lakes, California (for two weeks in July), then Flagstaff, Arizona (Aug 1 till now), I have steadily regained my mojo.

With the guidance of my coach Ian Dobson and the company of my comrades here in Flagstaff, I have raised my mileage not only to where it used to be, but also above and beyond.

I'm doing workouts in the thin mountain air that I would have struggled with at sea level, just two years ago.

For example, I've run a 16-mile (25.8km) tempo run at 2hr 28min marathon pace over rolling hills at 2,000m above sea level - 20 per cent less oxygen in the air, fuelled by nothing but a bottle of H-TWO-O and an energy gel.

Most importantly, I am enjoying running again.

Being able to explore the world with the strength of my lungs and the spring in my legs - that's something I haven't quite enjoyed since Nov 2015.

But now I'm back. I'm feeling better than ever. I'm ready for a comeback.

And I'm looking forward to my date with destiny at the Chicago Marathon, on Oct 9.

sportsMarathon