Soh breaks half-marathon record in Houston
He is on a quest to break the national marathon record as well as to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. And on Sunday, Soh Rui Yong produced further evidence that he is a man in form.
Fresh from being the Singaporean winner of last December's Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, the 27-year-old broke the half-marathon national mark when he clocked 1hr 06min 46sec at the Houston Marathon in his first race of the year.
The previous national mark was held by Mok Ying Ren, who clocked 1:07:08 at the 2016 Arizona Rock & Roll Half Marathon. Soh also holds the record for the 10,000m event for which he clocked 31:15.95 at the 2014 Portland Track Festival in Oregon, United States.
"I always knew I could (break the national half-marathon record) as I know my ability," Soh told The Straits Times. "The Houston course is generally very flat with very few inclines. Many Americans were there because they know this is a course where they can get fast times. Shortly after the start, packs formed.
"After 15km, I started to run my own race and those last five kilometres were probably among my fastest."
Before his race in Houston, he suffered from appendicitis. He has also been nursing plantar fasciitis, the swelling of tissue in his right heel, for the past two years.
To Soh, who is the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games marathon champion, his achievement at Houston had some overdue good fortune attached to it.
Recalling his previous half-marathon attempts, he said: "There was an incredible storm at the Cardiff Half Marathon in 2016. A year later, at the Marugame Half Marathon (in Japan), it was rainy and windy. Similarly at Hamburg in 2017, it was rainy and windy.
"Last year at Marugame, the race was affected by a blizzard. Even in Valencia, where it is usually sunny, the winds were so strong the palm trees were swaying. My luck at half-marathons is usually horrible."
Soh also paid tribute to his coaches, Singaporean ActiveSG Athletics Club's distance running coach Steven Quek, and American Ben Rosario.
"Steven is a track guy while Ben is a marathon guy. Together, they helped me to produce this good performance in Houston."
Soh will remain in Flagstaff, Arizona, until Feb 24 to continue training. He will return to Singapore for a week before going for the Tokyo Marathon on March 3.
He said: "It's not very ideal as I would like to arrive in Japan early to get used to the time difference and conditions, but this is the best arrangement I have.
"I ran the StanChart Singapore Marathon at 80 per cent (he was recovering from posterior tibial tendinosis in his left foot); that showed that I am in good shape."