Earlier this month, Soh Rui Yong became the second-fastest Singaporean marathoner ever, when he clocked 2 hours 26 minutes 1 second in his debut marathon, at the California International Marathon – in the USA.
As well, he also re-wrote the 41-year-old national 10,000m record earlier this year, clocking an impressive 31 minutes and 15.95 seconds in the race at the Portland Track Festival – in the USA too.
Conducted a public running clinic for local runners
Presently studying Business Administration at the University of Oregon in the USA, Soh is now back in Singapore for a holiday. And yesterday, he conducted a public running clinic, which had been organized by the Wings Athletic Club.
At this session, Soh shared with runners, the warm-up exercises that he does before every race and training session. He had learnt these from his coach – 2008 Olympian, Ian Dobson.
Soh does both static and dynamic warm up exercises
For his warm-up drills, Soh, who is part of an elite running development group, Team Run Eugene, in Oregon – believes in doing both static as well as dynamic exercises.
His static exercises included lunges to open the hip flexor muscles, toe touches to warm up the calves, as well as quad and ITB stretches to prevent injuries and cramps.
For the dynamic exercises, these included skipping to wake up the body and shake out sluggishness, side shuffles to warm up the legs, knee lifts and butt kicks. For each dynamic exercise, it is done for about 20 to 30 metres, and immediately followed by striding for another 20 metres.
“Striding after the dynamic warm-up drills brings the same motion into the stride, and the muscles will be able to remember these movements better – this will benefit running,” Soh explained.
Soh invited questions from local runners
After we were comfortably warmed up, Soh took us on an easy jog around the running track. This was quickly followed by simple static cool-down exercises.
As well, Soh invited questions from other runners. These had included questions on his diet, personal training regime and his opinions about doing weights as a distance runner.
Important for runners to get good nutrients through eating well
While Soh shared that he does not have a very strict diet and that he does enjoy his ice cream and chocolate cakes occasionally, he pointed out that it is very important for runners to get the right nutrition in order to enhance their performances.
Said Soh, “It is important to pay attention to your diet and what works for you.” This means trying to get in plenty of carbs and proteins after a race, in order to repair muscles, as well as carbo-loading before endurance events such as marathons.
Preparing his own meals has made him a better runner
In fact, Soh cooks and prepares his own meals and admitted that this has made him a better and stronger runner. He admits that his love for cooking healthy meals had started as a result of the restaurant food in Oregon being so much more expensive than Singapore, but in the end, this has been a blessing in disguise – in terms of his running.
Today, Soh is an expert at cooking nutritious dishes such as pasta, chicken and vegetables and eating this with salads for a wide variety of nutrients. “Pasta is very easy to make. After all, you just need salt, boiling water and bottled sauces, such as tomato and white cream sauce and you’re done,” Soh explained.
Moreover, Soh added that pasta is a healthy dish, with plenty of carbs too.
Does not do any cross training
Besides his diet and culinary prowess in the kitchen, it was quite interesting as well, to find out that Soh does absolutely zero cross training to train for his races. Said Soh, “Mok (Ying Ren) does a lot of cross training, but I do zero. Unless I am injured, I won’t cross train or bike. Even the Kenyans don’t do cross training. I think there’s no fixed formula to running well.”
Soh does admit to going to the gym though, but to him, these aren’t really cross training – he focuses on doing core exercises on his abs, back and lower hamstrings and these are purely body weight exercises.
Said Soh, “As a distance runner, weights training and power lifting isn’t important. You need to be aerobically strong and muscles may slow your running speed down.”
However, he does feel that sprinters may need more muscle mass though as this will propel them to greater speeds over short distances.
How Soh trained for his successful marathon debut
For the five months that he had focused his training on preparing for his full marathon, which he completed last Sunday, Soh followed his own tips. He ran twice a day from Mondays to Fridays, but took Saturdays off. Then this would be followed by a long run on Sundays.
During each of these
days, Soh did an average of two hours of running each day, with each running session lasting between 60 to 80 minutes. None of these sessions are particularly strenuous though.
Said Soh, “Many of my sessions are easy runs and I run on a mixture of terrains, including road, trail and cross country. I love my long runs because I enjoy going out there and getting time on my feet, without worrying about how fast I am going.”
A race strategy that worked to perfection
Of course, he had a perfect race strategy on the day of the California International Marathon too, taking it slow and easy in the first 32km and not trying to overtake runners who shot out of the starting blocks at breakneck pace.
Said Soh, “I was conservative. Whether other runners were fast or slow, I stuck to my own pace. Some may prefer to go out hard at the start and hang on till the end, but I prefer to pick it up at the tail end of the race.”
Passed many people in the final 10km
Indeed, he passed many people in the final 10km of the marathon, reducing from 78th position at the 21.1km mark, to an overall finish in 37th position. Soh added that his last 10km was run in 33 minutes and 39 seconds and that the more people he passed along the way, the more mental confidence it gave him.
Moving to Oregon has improved his running by leaps and bounds
But Soh does not think that he would have been able to improve himself so much or have so much confidence in his running abilities today, if he had not moved to Oregon to further his studies – due to the distinct differences in the competitive running scene between Singapore and the USA.
Said Soh, “The competitive running culture in the USA is very big. People train a lot more. Oregon is the best place for distance running too, because there are established Olympians as coaches, passing on their knowledge and they produce good athletes.”
“There are also plenty of differences in terms of the training methods. In the USA, the main emphasis is not killing yourself in training. At first I struggled to understand why people didn’t go all out in training, unlike in Singapore, but my race results have definitely been going my way – so I can’t complain.”
Resting and being undertrained is better than going all out and getting injured
So Soh advised runners that resting and being undertrained for a race is better than going all out during training – and winding up injured just before the big race.
“That’s what I learnt in Oregon – not to try too hard and race team mates during training. There is no point in doing that. The only things you will get are bragging rights and possibly even injuries. It’s quite pointless. The best effort should be at races and not during training sessions,” Soh explained.
No universal strategy when it comes to running
However, that said, the marathoner pointed out that there is no universal strategy when it comes to running. He explained, “Running is complicated. It is both an art and a science. So what works for me might not work for everyone. The way I respond to training may be different to the way you respond.”
Click here to find out about Soh Rui Yong’s healthy, home-cooked meals.
Click here to find out how Soh broke the 41-year-old 10,000m national record.