Soh Rui Yong makes SEA games
Defending champion meets qualifying mark in Chicago marathon
Soh Rui Yong has taken his first step in attempting to become the first Singaporean to win back-to-back South-east Asia (SEA) Games marathon gold medals.
The 25-year-old clocked 2hr 24min 55sec at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon yesterday to become the first local marathoner to make the qualification mark for next August's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Soh, who won the 2015 SEA Games marathon on home soil in 2:34:56, had to meet 2:37:10 - the third-placed time last year- to book his spot for a title defence next year.
His time in Chicago is the second-best performance by a Singaporean, behind M Rameshon, who clocked 2:24:22 at the Chiangmai SEA Games in 1995.
While Soh spent nine weeks preparing for the Chicago Marathon, he admitted he almost shot himself in the foot - by waking up late.
"Nothing went to plan this morning," he told The New Paper, after the race.
"First of all, I woke up late, so I didn't have a warm-up since I had a two-hour journey from (Arizona).
"By the time I reached the race, it was super packed... In the end, I said 'screw it' and chucked my bag at the public area and went to the start line. Then the race started."
The University of Oregon business graduate said he was satisfied with how the race went, despite windy conditions.
"I don't think anyone ran faster than 2:11 (race winner Abel Kirui of Kenya clocked 2:11:23) and those top guys usually run 2:05 or 2:06," he said.
"I ran a 1:13 first half and a 1:11 second half, and a negative split is a good way to run the race. It gives me a lot of confidence."
Soh, who will start working with national sports body Sport Singapore next Monday, revealed he plans to train on the track - in events like the 5,000m and 10,000m - in the first half of 2017, to work on his speed ahead of next year's SEA Games.
The Chicago race is the first full marathon he has completed since his gold-medal winning race 16 months ago.
He has struggled with a plantar fasciitis injury, which did not allow him to complete the Fukuoka and London marathons earlier this year, and dented his hopes of qualifying for the Rio Olympics.
After that disappointment, Soh turned his focus to the defence of his SEA Games title.
He sought expert advice to recover from the plantar injury, before undergoing high-altitude training in California and then Arizona, ahead of yesterday's race.