Neo, who holds down a full-time day job as an Assistant Manager in Human Resources and Administration, had felt slightly disappointed that she didn’t manage to improve on her personal best – of 3 hours 9 minutes and 57 seconds – at the Hong Kong Marathon this year.
SHE TOLD HERSELF TO ENJOY THE RACE AND FINISH IT
Said Neo, “I was a bit disappointed with the timing, but when I realised that a personal best was no longer possible, I changed my objective and told myself to enjoy the race and finish it as soon as I could.”
Neo added that she had actually been on target for a personal best up to the halfway mark though. Said the runner, “I would say that the first 15km went okay and I was running at my target race pace. It was still going well at the halfway point – I completed the first 21km in 1 hour 33 minutes which is still on target. But then I got slower, partly because I was running by myself and I think I should have focused better to keep myself going.”
She added, “But when I crossed the finishing line, my immediate reaction was feeling more happy and relieved that it was over, rather than anything else. And of course I was happy that I had made it to the end.”
COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TO HER OTHER RUNNING EXPERIENCES
But in spite of her timing, though, Neo added that she had enjoyed herself very much at the Olympics as it had been completely different to anything that she had been used to previously.
She said, “I had a great racing experience. It was an eye opener for me to be running at the Olympics. For instance, we had to run a 10km loop three times during the marathon and when I was on the other side of the road, I saw the front pack and it was really motivating to see them running on the opposite end.”
She added, “I had initially been worried that I would be running alone for most of the marathon too, but actually it was not so lonely – though I was running by myself most of the time, I had one or two other runners whom I was trying to keep up with. That helped to keep me going.”
THRONGS OF SUPPORTERS WERE A GREAT MOTIVATION FOR HER
The throngs of supporters who had been lining the Olympic Marathon running route were also a great source of motivation for Neo to push herself all the way.
Explained the runner “I liked how the supporters at the side of the road cheered for me. They were not from Singapore but when they saw me running past, they were chanting, ‘Singapore, Singapore’ and that really kept me going as well.”
She continued “In Singapore we don’t see so many supporters at the side of the road when we are running. In Rio it was quite overwhelming! But maybe it was because it’s the Olympics, the spectators were all so enthusiastic and carrying their country flags. It was so heartening.”
THE SEARING RIO HEAT
However she admitted that running the Olympics Marathon didn’t come without its challenges, and for Neo, this had been the searing Rio heat.
She explained, “The biggest challenge was coping with the heat during the marathon. It seemed to be quite hot – the humidity seemed lower than Singapore so I thought it would be easier and that would help me. But as I was running, it still seemed to be a lot hotter than what I am used to in Singapore.”
EYE OPENING FOR HER TO EXPERIENCE THE LIFESTYLE OF A FULL TIME ATHLETE
Besides the actual running though, it was also an eye opener for Neo to have experienced the lifestyle of a full-time athlete.
Said Neo, “Every athlete had a different lifestyle at the Rio Olympic Village depending on the timings of their Olympic events. For me, my race was at 9.30am in the morning.”
She added, “So I would wake up and start training at around 9.30-10.30am to get used to the weather at that timing. I was really enjoying the life of a full-time athlete, which is training, eating & sleeping and then repeating it again the next day. It gave me a good break from work as well.”
In Rio, she also had the chance to meet athletes from all walks of life – and to her, the most memorable of these was coming face to face with two marathoners from Taiwan.
Explained Neo, “I had met them at the Great Eastern Women’s Run last year and it felt really heartwarming to see them again. We also encouraged and motivated each other to do well for our marathon event.”
TAKEAWAYS FROM HER OLYMPIC MARATHON EXPERIENCE
What takeaways does Neo have from her Olympic Marathon experience? Said the runner, “The biggest takeaway was learning from all the other athletes I met there and to see how they trained. To see everyone training so hard motivated me and proved that hard work really does pay off.”
She added “But I also feel that another important takeaway was not just the three weeks in Rio but the training process right from the beginning – when Singapore Athletics (SA) appointed Steven Quek as my Coach. I have learned so much during this journey that even though I did not manage to run a Marathon personal best, Coach Quek has guided me to Personal Bests for 10km and the half marathon.”
RECOVERY IS VERY IMPORTANT
Neo also stressed that she learnt a lot about recovery from Coach Quek. She said, “I learnt a lot about not only running, but recovery. He always emphasised on recovery. We do train hard but after training it’s important to rest and he makes sure that we have ample rest before training again – that is where we really start to improve.”
She added, “Though everyone responds differently to training and at different rates, it’s important to have at least one rest day a week. If you do not have complete rest, use that day for cross training.”
SHE WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE SINGAPORE RUNNING COMMUNITYOverall though, Neo also added that she would like to thank the Singapore running community for their support throughout her Olympic Marathon journey.
Said Neo, “I just want to thank all of my supporters who watched the marathon for more than three hours straight, and I felt so touched to see all the messages and the well wishes coming in, that even though I did not run a Personal best, everyone was still so happy and proud of me.”
She added, “Representing Singapore at the Olympics and to be able to complete the marathon was the least that I could do – Singapore sent me there to finish the Marathon, and I wanted to do my best for my country.”