With less than a week left till she flies off to Rio on 1 August, Olympic bound marathoner Neo Jie Shi is pumped up about the biggest race of her life.
Said Neo, 31, an Assistant Manager in Human Resources and Admin, “I am very excited and looking forward to having a great racing experience in Rio. It will be a big challenge but a lot of fun too. I’m particularly looking forward to meeting some of the elite athletes there and taking photos with them.”She added, “I am also keen to experience what life is like inside the Olympic village and learn as much as I can, from the best of the best.”
Coy about her chances of a personal best time
But Neo remains coy about her chances of attaining a personal best in Rio though. She said, “I have done the training and I hope that this will allow me to finish the marathon in a personal best timing. But the marathon is such a long race and it will very much depend on the conditions on race day. Hopefully I will do my best and can run well in Rio.”
She added playfully, “But to podium will require more than a miracle, of course!”
Rewritten her personal best timings under Coach Quek
For the past few months, Neo had been training under Coach Steven Quek, a well known distance running coach in Singapore and with his tutelage, she had successfully rewritten her personal best timings for the 10km and the half marathon.
She had run the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon in Japan in 1 hour 27 minutes and 39 minutes in May and the Seoul Marathon’s 10km Challenge in March in 39 minutes and 49 seconds. These timings had been her first sub 1:30 half marathon and sub 40 mins 10km run, respectively.
Said Neo, “And now I am in the final phase of training for the Olympic Marathon. This has required me to do a lot of long runs and I did my longest long run during the weekend. So now I am particularly looking forward to tapering for the next couple of weeks to get ready for the marathon.”
May be a new learning curve for her
She added, “But like any other marathon I have run in the past, this one will be a new learning curve for me, and through running at the Olympics, I hope that I can be motivated to continue to run competitively for as long as my body is able to.”
But unlike many other marathons she has run, Neo realises that the Olympics Marathon may be quite different in more ways than one.
Said Neo, “This race is on a much bigger scale than anything else I have run in the past. It is also a marathon that has the creme of the crop taking part, so I may be running alone for most of the time.”
She added, “As a result, I will have to stay focused through the whole race, and run smart.”
Hopes that her journey will inspire other Singapore runners
Nevertheless, she hopes that her journey from recreational runner to Olympian will continue to inspire other Singaporean runners.
Said Neo, “To be honest, I never thought that I would ever make it to the Olympics. My qualification is quite unexpected, but I really hope that this will spur on the up and coming long distance runners to train hard. And with more training, who knows, they will also get to achieve their dreams.”
Neo herself had started running, in 2006, during her university days to get fit, like most other runners. Her newfound joy for running had then lead her to sign up for a half marathon – which she had completed in a respectable sub 2-hour timing.
The following year, she then joined her first 42km race at the the Standard Chartered Marathon… and since then, her dedication and commitment to her running and training, has resulted in her improving by leaps and bounds… and to her eventual participation in the Olympics this August.
Neo continued, “Train consistently and your hard work will definitely pay off one day.”