Top distance runner and South East Asia (SEA) Games Marathon Gold Medallist, Mok Ying Ren recently broke Singapore’s Half Marathon record and attained a new personal best – at last week’s Christchurch Airport Marathon, in New Zealand. He had completed the 21km race in a stunning time of 1 hour 7 minutes and 39 seconds.
At the Pocari Sweat Run this morning, Mok, winner of the Men’s 10km category, spent some time answering questions about his amazing run in Christchurch and giving running tips to participants, on a myriad of topics – including diet and hydration.
Here is what the 25-year-old Doctor (Captain) in the Army shared with runners at the informative Q&A session.
Congratulations on achieving the amazing record in Christchurch. What was it like, running there?
Overall it was a fantastic race. It is usually held in the first week of June and is near the airport, so it is called the Christchurch Airport Marathon. I have been there for the past four years and the race is very flat so it is good for running your personal best in the marathon, half marathon and the 10km races.
During the race, it was quite cold – about zero degrees. But I just ran normally in singlet and shorts (because your body will warm up later).
But wouldn’t your lungs feel a burning sensation in that weather?
Actually I felt really good. About five kilometres into the race, you will feel your body is warming up and because the temperature is very cold, your engines won’t overheat. It actually makes you feel much better.
Like all runners, what is your inspiration to run? What keeps you going?
I think for me, running is to improve myself and see how far I can go. My eventual goal is to qualify for the Olympics in 2016. So every morning, I wake up at 6.30am for a one-hour run and then I will go to work. I actually stay at Nee Soon Camp so I just wake up, run, go to work, and then in the evening, I will run again, this time ranging from one to one-and-a-half hours.
So that means you run twice a day and do two-and-a-half hours of running every day?
Yes, I would run about 160km a week. Consistency is very important when running is concerned.
It is very easy to get bored when running. So when you are running, after two kilometres, what do you think of when you are running further?
Honestly, running is very challenging. I also get bored, so sometimes I would run with friends, like Ivan Low or Fang Jian Yong when I am doing the long runs or the track workouts, so I don’t always run by myself
I also listen to radio and music. Ultimately I know I am doing all these runs to improve myself, so I simply get out there and do it.
Sometimes you need a distraction in your head though. What do you think of? What is in your mind?
Last time when I was studying, I tried to record lectures and listen to them while running but nothing goes in, so that is a waste of time, I think! But generally, I just think about the run itself and the next race, to keep myself going.
How do you go further, longer and faster when you are running?
I really think patience is very important. It is all about being patient and having consistency in your running. So you have to run a few times a week, day in and day out – for the whole year.
A lot of students, especially when they have exams, will stop running and so the fitness they got, through doing all those months of training, just disappears. They are not consistent. The key word here is consistency and your body will adapt to the hardship.
Do you know why Kenyans are so fast? They start with running a lot as children and run hundreds of miles a week without even knowing that running is a sport. Then they realise that their own guys are running out there and making money and so they feel that they can, too.
Honestly they have been doing it efficiently in their younger years and that is why they are good. So if you start running later in your years, then be patient and just enjoy yourself and you will actually enjoy it and not get injuries.
How important do you see hydration in terms of running?
Actually nowadays, drinking water is not enough. You’ll see that runners who visit the medical tent during events like this and have their blood checked, will actually have very low sodium levels. This is because they drink a lot of plain water and that dilutes their blood so they are actually going into the medical tent for over-hydration and loss of sodium.
Instead, they should actually be having isotonic drinks that have plenty of sodium so that there will be a lower chance that their blood will get diluted.
Most think that those going to hydration tents are runners who don’t drink enough, but actually, the medical tents contain people who drink too much plain water, which dilutes the sodium level in their blood.
What would be a good runners’ diet before a run and on a daily basis?
Running is a weight-bearing sport. For every step that you take, you are bearing your own body weight. So logically, the lighter you are, the better it is.
So try to eat foods that are low in fats like yong tau foo with the non-fried stuff. Normally, I eat vegetables with rice. Try to stay away from foods such as chicken rice, fried kway teow and so on.
Try to look for healthy options that are carbohydrate-based at the food court. In running, you burn a lot of carbohydrates, so try and replenish those and reduce your fat intake.
But you can’t eat too much carbohydrate and run too little, right?
Yes, because you will end up putting on weight. So whatever you are eating, try and make sure that you run it away so that you don’t put on weight.
What do you eat before your run?
In the mornings, I just eat something very simple, such as cereals with milk. If you have an event, try and find something that works for you.
If you are training for the Singapore Marathon, try and wake up early for one of your long runs and find something beforehand, such as bread or a cereal bar and see how your body tolerates it. If your body can take it, then you can do it for race day.
Make sure that you practise whatever you intend to eat on that day. So you need to be consistent in what you are eating as well.
What message that you can pass to all of the 9,000 runners here today?
I think we are very lucky to have so many running events every week and it is a great time to stay healthy and I think you guys are on the right track. So if your friends are not down here, tell them to come on down – next year.