S'porean in US qualifies for SEA Games marathon with better time than Mok's gold medal effort
It isn't easy being Soh Rui Yong.
Less than 24 hours after the Singaporean qualified for the men's marathon at next June's South-East Asia (SEA) Games by posting a time of 2hr 26min 01sec at the California International Marathon on Sunday, the 23-year-old was up at the crack of dawn yesterday.
He had to catch an early flight to Portland, where he is a pursuing a business administration degree at the University of Oregon.
"Yeah, I have to take a final exam tomorrow," Soh told The New Paper over the phone yesterday. "So I can't stay in California and party.
"But I think I'll be fine. If I don't screw it up, I should still be able to get an A."
He certainly aced his first attempt at the marathon.
While his prowess at middle-distance running is no secret - he set a new national record in the 10,000m with a time of 31min 15.95sec in June - his ability at running the 42.195km race was unknown.
Soh's time was the second-best performance by a Singaporean, bettered only by the national record of 2:24.22 clocked by M Rameshon at the Chiangmai SEA Games in 1995.
It also bettered the 2:28:36 clocked by Mok Ying Ren when he won gold at the Myanmar SEA Games last December.
Mok, who last weekend emerged as the top local runner in the Men's Open category at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, was pleased by Soh's emergence.
"It doesn't surprise me, after his record in the 10,000m," said the 26-year-old, who was Soh's senior at Raffles Institution. "It's good for the distance -running scene in Singapore that there are two people running a sub 2:30."
Soh felt a potential rivalry between the two would be a boon for marathon running in Singapore.
"Mok being in the sport definitely helps me more than it hurts me, and I think it's the same case for him," he said. "For now, at the SEA Games, I've got the gold medal standard in marathon, and it's not something I have in the 10,000m (the winning time at lastyear's SEA Games was 29:44.82).
"I'm not saying I will win for sure... but if I do, I won't feel like I'm taking anything from Mok."
Soh said the key to his successful race in California was patience.
He said: "I was conservative for the first 32km. I picked it up so much that in the last 10km, I clocked 33:29, which would win you road races in Singapore and was what I ran two years ago."
He added that his race plan almost fell apart due to missing replenishment.
"I prepared six bottles along the course, but found only two," he chuckled. "Thankfully, one of the other runners gave me one of his energy gels and I returned the favour by giving him some of my Gatorade."
Singapore Athletic Association chief Tang Weng Fei, who has long tipped Soh for the top, was delighted.
"Fantastic," said Tang."What did I tell you? Before the race, he told me on Facebook he was going for Mok's 2:28.
"He did very well... His sectional times were very consistent."