Marathoner Soh wants gold medal as birthday present
A gold medal would be perfect birthday present for top local marathoner
Soh Rui Yong usually listens to some catchy, up-tempo music, like Eminem, just before his marathon races.
But don't be surprised if his pre-race choice ahead of this morning's South-east Asia (SEA) Games marathon is the slow rock ballad "Patience" by Guns N' Roses.
After all, Axl Rose's message - "all it takes is a little patience" - will precisely be Soh's approach to the race.
Touted as Singapore's best hope for a gold after 2013 SEA Games champion Mok Ying Ren failed to clock the necessary timing because of injury, Soh (right) says his best chance of delivering is by staying calm.
"You can have the best strategy but, 99 per cent of the time, not everything goes your way," he told The New Paper after an hour-long workout at the Kallang Practice Track yesterday morning.
"So I believe in going out there with an open mind, being proactive to the things that are going on around you.
"I think my best chance is to just relax and go with the pack for as long as possible. If I were to summarise my strategy, it would be patience. Waiting for the right time to go."
SOH TURNS 24
Soh is based in the United States, where he is a pursuing a business administration degree at the University of Oregon in Portland.
He returned to Singapore two-and-a-half weeks ago to get acclimatised to the weather and, for the past week, has had the companionship of Jordan Schilit - one of his coaches at the Eugene Track Club which he runs for in the US.
"Patience is really the name of the game here," said Schilit, endorsing Soh's plan.
"Everyone knows conditions are going to be hot and tough, so you don't want to make a move too early.
"You need to just keep contact (with the pack) and, when you make a move, you need to be assertive enough so it's going to last."
Soh turns 24 tomorrow and, having a gold medal slung around his neck at the end of the gruelling 42km race would no doubt be the perfect birthday present. And he is shaping up well.
Despite dialling down his training intensity after qualifying for the SEA Games with a 2:26:01 (second-fastest time by a Singaporean) at the California International Marathon on Dec 8, he still continued clocking milestones in shorter events, such as a 14:58 in the 5,000m event at the Oregon Relays meet on April 17.
Only two other Singaporeans - Mok and former marathon record holder Nadarajan Ganesan - have gone under 15 minutes in the event.
But Soh is wary of the competitive marathon field at the SEA Games. He singled out veteran Filipino runner Eduardo Buenavista - who missed out on the 2013 SEA Games and has clocked a time of 2:24:11 in the last year - as the man to beat.
The Singaporean insists, though, he isn't feeling burdened by the weight of expectation on him to repeat Mok's historic feat in Myanmar 18 months ago.
"Honestly, I don't pay much attention to what others say," said Soh.
"I have a chance (to win) but... I have to run very well and hope for maybe a couple of mistakes from other runners to get the gold. It's that hard to win a marathon gold against the competition (that's here).
"But I don't feel any pressure. Most times, pressure is self-inflicted. For me, as long as I go out and run my best, I can hold my head high."
The men's marathon will begin at the Kallang Practice Track (KPT), known as the "Home of Athletics".
From there, runners will make their way down to East Coast Park, where they will run five loops of 5.3km.
This is where most of the race will take place, with a distance of 26.5km being covered. The runners then run across the Marina Bridge, where the final 9km will see them race past the Marina Barrage and Gardens by the Bay, onto Nicoll Highway and back to KPT.
There, one final lap of the track will be run before the finish.