The moment that national marathon runner Ashley Liew Wei Yen, 28, had touched down in Singapore last Saturday midnight – for the 2015 SEA Games, the first thing that he was looking forward to – after an exhausting 44-hour journey – was a long shower and a good night’s rest.
Said Liew, a Chiropractic student at the Sherman College of Chiropractic, in South Carolina, the USA, “I had definitely wanted to head home for a nice, warm shower and to get a good night’s rest, but after that, my second agenda was to be able to get a run in, as I think that is the best way to get rid of jet lag, up to a certain point.”
So Liew got up, bright and early the next morning, and did a 16km easy run. He said, “I was itching for a run, and it was good to see a lot of familiar faces. People recognised me and they would clap and say ‘Go Ash’ even though I was only doing an easy run. But it was great, as I often do not see familiar faces in America.”
Heat and humidity were not as bad as expected
And Liew didn’t really think that the heat and humidity that greeted him in Singapore, had been as bad as he had anticipated though. He said, “I was anticipating coming back and being warmly welcomed with the heat and humidity but surprisingly, it was not as bad as I had thought. I have two weeks left till the day of the SEA Games Marathon, so there is plenty of time to fully acclimatise. I think it would be much better than the 2013 SEA Games marathon in Myanmar, when I had flew in just two days beforehand.”
Hopes to do a better timing this round
So Liew is hoping to do a much better timing here. Said the SEA Games marathoner, “I am fitter, stronger and more prepared this time round, so we will see what happens on race day. But I am definitely in the best shape so far. I am looking forward to racing against (Soh) Rui Yong too, and it will help to have a familiar face out there on the race route.”
Training stint in Kenya to prepare for the Games
To prepare himself and train up for the marathon, Liew also did a recent training stint in Kenya for 43 days. This had been his second altitude training stint there – his first had been in December last year. Said Liew, “I was told beforehand by those experienced in altitude training, that the second time you come back, your body is able to adapt a lot faster compared to the first time. I found that to be quite true. When I joined in for my first workout this time round, I was doing a slightly faster time compared to where I had previously left off.”
Liew had also explained that during this training stint in Kenya, he could definitely see the progress too, as he had been able to consistently stick together with the Kenyan group until a certain point. At the same time, he also felt that his training sessions were also high in terms of both quality and quantity, because there was plenty of time to rest and recover, during the six weeks that he was in Kenya.
Added Liew, “The altitude training will definitely help me at the SEA Games. I do not know if it will be accurately reflected in the time that I do because of the conditions in Singapore, but I wanted to set myself up in the best fitness possible and I think that I have successfully achieved that.”
2015 SEA Games Marathon will be more competitive
Liew thinks that the 2015 SEA Games marathon will be more competitive than the 2013 one though, with strong runners from countries such as Indonesia, Philippines and Myanmar. He added, “The competition will be strong, but because of the weather conditions in Singapore, I think that this will even out the competition – so I do not feel inferior even though my personal best is slower than some of the other guys taking part. It is also nice to be the underdog – as in that way, there is less pressure on me and I can perform my best without any weight on my shoulders.”
Proud to be one of the national athletes representing Team Singapore
At the same time, with the amount of excitement being generated about the SEA Games in Singapore, it has also made him feel proud to be one of the athletes representing Team Singapore at home. Said Liew, “It is quite exciting because the SEA Games hasn’t been here for so long and to see the excitement brewing is good. I was running around the Sports Hub last night and it was quite amazing to run around the area and see the volunteers putting everything together. So many people are working together to make this show a success. These are really exciting times for Singapore.”
“From the mood so far, I think this will definitely be a very different Games to Myanmar – which was generally more quiet and lonely for me, apart from small pockets of supporters along the way every now and then,” Liew added.
Looking forward to seeing Singaporeans come out in full force
He is also looking forward to seeing Singaporeans coming out in full force to show their support. Said Liew, “I hope that a lot of Singaporeans will be out there to cheer us on. We athletes will really appreciate the support – and as the SEA Games does not come to Singapore often, it would be great if we can all take the advantage of this opportunity to not only rally behind Team Singapore, but also to really get out there and show others our Singapore heart. In fact, I am also looking forward to supporting my mates who are participating in other sports at the Games.”
Favourite hawker foods are Hokkien mee and chwee kueh
Besides the Games though, Liew, as a local born and bred Singaporean, also admitted that there is one other thing that he has been looking forward to since coming back to Singapore – tucking into the local hawker foods. His favourites in particular are Hokkien mee and chwee kueh. Said Liew, “I was hoping to fulfil Hokkien mee and chwee kueh on my first day back, but there had been neither at Plaza Singapura, where I was earlier in the day.” But fortunately for him though, a very relieved Liew later managed to grab some chwee kueh at the Marine Parade hawker centre – as an afternoon snack.
Added Liew, “I am hoping to also be able to get Hainanese chicken rice and one serving of char kway teow before I leave – to remind me of what the taste is, and then I would wait till the next time when I get back to Singapore, to have it again. Nothing beats local hawker food.”
Whatever the case is, Liew admitted though that he still has to watch his diet. He said, “I will definitely be tucking into local foods after my marathon until my next training regime starts. But I will still need to watch what I eat for sure, otherwise I may have some trouble starting my next marathon training programme.”
Will be sticking to simple foods leading up to the marathon
So Liew has definitely come a very long way from his early days in terms of his diet discipline – when he used to eat char kway teow three times a week simply because he had enjoyed it. In fact, in the days leading up to the marathon, he will be sticking mainly to simple, plain foods.
Added Liew, “These days, I am actually fine with eating spaghetti with very little sauce or even plain bread. My coach, Rameshon Murugiah, taught me to appreciate simple foods – you may not always have access to the foods that you want, especially when you travel abroad for marathons, so if your appetite is kept simple, you have more flexibility when it comes to your diet. I really appreciate him for that.”
Giving nothing but his best
And in two weeks time, Liew will be giving nothing but his best when he runs the SEA Games marathon – and he is confident that every athlete in the Team Singapore contingent will be doing just that, too, in their respective sports. Said Liew, “Anything is possible for Team Singapore – it does not matter how small a nation we are, but I think with the right support and motivation, the athletes are geared up to do the best they can. Singapore can have no regrets if we give off just that.”
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