Colin Tung, 26, was one of the athletes chosen to represent Singapore in the 3,000m Steeplechase event at the SEA Games 2015 – to be held on Singapore soil come June. This is the first time that Singapore will be hosting the SEA Games, since 1993.
An obstacle race that requires athletes to clear barriers
The 3,000m Steeplechase is an obstacle running event whereby athletes are required to clear a total of 28 barriers and 7 water jumps. In this way, it makes it completely different to a simple 10km or 21km run, as completely different techniques are required of its athletes.
Said Tung, a freelance writer who is currently training full-time for the SEA Games, “For steeplechase, I have to incorporate a lot of strength training as well as training my running. But on the other hand, training for a 10km or a half marathon is very aerobic and about simply going out there for long runs. In that way, steeplechase training is a lot more varied.”
Proud that he was chosen to be part of Team Singapore
Though this interview was conducted before Tung’s selection for the SEA Games was confirmed, Tung said that he would be honoured to be given this chance to represent Singapore – if he was chosen. Now that he is officially part of Team Singapore, this will be Tung’s first time representing his country at a major meet. His fellow Team Singapore athlete in the same event, will be Muhammad Shah Feroz, 28.
Humble about his medal chances
Tung would not see his medal chances, or that of his fellow Singaporean competitors, as being very high though. He said, “As the steeplechase is not a sport that many Singaporeans opt to do competitively, the steeplechase scene in Singapore is not as developed as compared to some other countries. Thus, we are not at the same level as our regional neighbours. So in this regard, it is hard for a Singaporean athlete to medal at this discipline, compared to other countries like the Philippines, who have athletes that can clock sub 9 minutes in this event.”
“But then again, in sports, anything can happen, and now that I have been given that chance to be at the starting line, I hope to capitalise on any mistakes that my competitors may make – and push Singapore into the medal positions,” added Tung.
Was introduced to steeplechase about 10 years ago
Tung’s introduction to steeplechase was about 10 years ago, during his junior college days – as he was intrigued by the sheer technicalities and variety involved in the sport of steeplechase, compared to simple running. He explained, “What I like about this sport is that it is very technical and it offers variety. But sometimes, I can also dislike it. That’s because one single mistake can cause you to trip and fall and it can be traumatic – because the barriers used are very hard. It’s different to hurdling, whereby if you fall, the hurdle falls over too.”
“But if you stick with steeplechase for long enough and get into that rhythm of jumping over the barriers, it is different from running on flat track or road, because it’s a different challenge. At the same time, you are trying to challenge yourself and clock a good time, despite these obstacles,” added Tung.
Takes a special breed of runner to tackle the Steeplechase
Tung believes that it takes a special breed of runner to take on the steeplechase though, and that not every runner is able do well at such an event.
Said Tung, “I think it takes a certain kind of courage to do steeplechase compared to running. Strong runners who can run 5km or half marathon fast may not do well at steeplechase because they may not have the agility and dexterity to face obstacles while running at that speed. So in that regard, steeplechase requires certain qualities like courage and agility, and that is what drew me to this event. I also think it helps to make me a better runner, as a whole.”
Steeplechase is a good metaphor for life
Tung also sees steeplechase as a good metaphor of life. He said, “I mean, running has always been used as a metaphor for life, for example, you have heard of the phrase, life is a marathon. But I think steeplechase is an even more direct metaphor, because the race of life does not go smoothly and the obstacles you must face in steeplechase are like the obstacles of life – and how you have to get over them to complete the race.”
Hopes to change the perception of steeplechase in Singapore
Tung’s ultimate goal though, is that he hopes to change the perception of steeplechase in Singapore by do well at the SEA Games. He believes that a good showing in Singapore would increase the sport’s popularity in the country. He said, “I am hoping that younger and upcoming runners can look at us in the SEA Games and say that since I can do it, then they can do it too. I want to be that person to have the opportunity to pave the way for steeplechase running in Singapore.”
Realises that obstacle running races are increasing in popularity in Singapore
But while not many Singaporeans would actually sign themselves up to run a steeplechase track race, Tung does realise that obstacle races are increasing in popularity in Singapore, with event such as the Men’s Health Urbanathlon, the Spartan Race Singapore and the Commando Challenge drawing thousands of participants from all walks of life, every year. So Tung feels that perhaps this is a good start for Singapore – in terms of boosting the steeplechase running scene, as both types of events require similar types of training.
Tips for obstacle and steeplechase running
What tips does Tung have anyway, for those who are keen to try out and do well at an obstacle race? He said, “If there are obstacles along the race course, you definitely need more strength, whether it is upper body, lower body or the core muscles. So you will need to do research on the types of obstacles along the route. I recommend that you do body weight exercises after your run – like planks, push ups and pull ups to help you tackle the obstacles.”
“In terms of steeplechase you will have to jump over obstacles, so you will need strong quads, hamstrings and leg strength – and that can be improved with doing squats, pistol squats, lunges and hill running. With hill running, you are also killing two birds with one stone because you are improving your cardiovascular system and building your strength as well. That’s because there is more inertia involved when you go uphill, so the act of running increases muscle strength in the legs while building cardiovascular activity at the same time. So this will help both with obstacle running as well as your normal running,” added Tung.
Tung’s tips on getting faster and training to run longer
Tung also mentioned that many runners have asked him about how to get faster or the training to do, to increase their mileage. He explained, “But rather than answering with a specific workout regimen, I will tell them that it’s all about maintaining that joy in running. I think that is the cornerstone of maintaining any training regimen because as long as you have joy in whatever you are doing, you are interested to find out how to get better.”
Added Tung, “And as you do running more frequently, that paves the ay for you to do more, whether it be doing more sessions or to push for a longer distance in a single training session. So just make yourself happy as you run – be it treating yourself to a good meal after the run, or buying some nice new running clothes the next time you go shopping.”
other blog posts
- Tips for night running by elite Singapore runners
- Tips by elite runner Marcus Ong
- Triathlete Clement Chow qualifies for Sea Games 2015
- Marathoner Soh Rui Yong qualifies for Sea Games 2015