National runner and regular podium finisher, Melvin Wong, started running only at age 21

National runner Melvin Wong, 33, has several accolades in both running and triathlon to his name. These include a win in the recent Men’s Closed category at the Army Half Marathon (21.1km) which took place last weekend, as well as victory in the 2XU Compression Run (21.1km) in 2015. He was also the OSIM Triathlon age-group champion in both 2008 and 2009 and the Asian Duathlon age group champion in 2009.

Melvin crossing the finish line at the Army Half Marathon 2017.

Started running in 2004 when he enlisted in the army

So it is surprising to know that Melvin, who also holds down a full time job as a sales & accounts manager in the financial industry, had only picked up running at the age of 21, thanks to the encouragement of his army buddies.

Said Melvin, “I only started running in 2004 when I was in the army.”

He added, “I felt that running was a good form of exercise and also provided a good time to mix with like minded friends. Running grew on me and I have never stopped running. Sometimes running gives me the mental relief when I am bogged down by work and other things in life. It helps to clear my mind, so I value my runs a lot.”

The Army Half Marathon was the event that kicked off Melvin’s running interest.

Most Memorable achievement 

With all of the accolades to his name, what is Melvin’s most memorable accomplishment in the name of running? He said “I think naturally in terms of performance, it would be the South East Asia Games 2015.”

Melvin had represented Singapore at the 2015 South East Asia Games, in both the 5,000m and 10,000m athletics events.

Added Melvin, “But I think looking way back, this (the Army Half Marathon) was the event that kicked off my interest; my army friends had got me into the sport and I think that this was the event in terms of being memorable and all.”

At the time, Melvin had been a junior officer attempting to ride on the hype of training for a half marathon in a bid to get a gold for his IPPT (Individual Physical Proficiency Test), a compulsory test that NSmen need to undergo to test the basic components of their physical fitness and motor skills.

Melvin started running at 21.

With the encouragement from his army buddies, Melvin had succeeded in not only getting an IPPT gold, but also in completing his first half marathon. This had also ignited his passion for running and sports.

Trains with TrackStar Athletics

To get to his current level in running, Melvin trains with the TrackStar Athletics team, an elite athletics personal training and coaching company. Said Melvin, “They give me a programme that is structured toward certain goals of mine every year. I am fortunate to have direction and guidance from the experienced coaches there.”

Under his training programme, Melvin does about 80km – 100km per week on his lower mileage weeks and this can increase to about 120km – 130km weekly on his higher mileage weeks.

He covers an average of about 10km – 15km per day and his long runs can go up to 28km during his marathon training cycles.

To vary his training runs slightly too, Melvin would alternate his running surfaces, sometimes training on the track but other times at East Coast Park, MacRitchie Reservoir or Upper Peirce Reservoir.

Melvin trains with TrackStar Athletics.

According to Melvin, this is because different running surfaces give a different impact on the body, working different types of muscles at the same time. For example running off-road is softer and significantly easier on the body than running on cement or concrete.

As well, Melvin also does cross training on the bike or elliptical machines at the gym in order to mix up his training sessions further.

Added Melvin “I train almost every day. There are some rest days but it is not something I would factor in; I always try and listen to how my body reacts and if there is a period of time I am feeling uncomfortable and training isn’t going well, I will take a break.”

Listen to your body

Melvin stressed that listening to the body is most important. He said “I felt that 99 per cent of us are not full time runners, so we need to be mindful that even though we want to train like the pros and to the best that we can, there is an element of recovery involved. If you are mindful of how you feel and in tune with your body, taking breaks or recovery when needed, I feel that you can go a long way.”

He added “I always run by feel. I do not have specific heart rate training zones, but I know roughly what heart rate to hit during training sessions. If I need to push then I will push myself, but otherwise I run largely by body feeling.”

Rest is important 

Melvin however, feels that many age group and recreational athletes are not getting enough rest between their sessions, though.

He said, “I feel that a lot of times, people do not rest enough especially between their hard sessions. They may go very hard at a session and before their body is recovered they will do another hard one; that will most likely get them injured.”

Rest is important to Melvin, to run well.

Set a goal race pace and train for it

As well, Melvin strongly recommends runners to train at their goal race pace. He said “It is important to set a goal race pace and train for it. Then at the race, go out comfortable first and only go hard at the end. A lot of runners, even experienced ones, do not do what they are supposed to do in terms of race execution and training for races. Many people hope that on race day they will have that magic moment that they will be able to achieve the impossible – even though they did not train for it. I want to advise runners that your body gets used to what you have done in training.”

He added, “It is important to be relaxed at the race too; you can get carried away with so many other runners around you and might go out too fast in the first 5km; then it will hit you hard. You need to adjust to what your body is telling you in terms of breathing and your response to your running.”

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