Avid Singaporean Ultra Marathon runner Yong Yuen Cheng, 43, shot to public prominence when he ran 2,500km in 50 days, from April to June last year. That’s 50km per day – and it’s actually 125 rounds around a typical 400m stadium track. Together with fellow ultra runner Lim Nghee Huat, the duo had then ended their 2,500km running feat – by lighting the SEA Games torch on the last day of their epic run.
CONFIDENT THAT HE WOULD COMPLETE THE 2,500KM
Said Yong, “When this run had been proposed, people had thought that it would not be completed. But when I was asked if I was confident of finishing, I believed that I could do it from the start, due to the experience that I have built up by taking part in many races and the discipline that I have as a person.”
Yong admitted that he did not find the run easy going though, and faced challenges along the way. These had included gastric issues and an Achilles injury. But despite the many difficulties, Yong pushed on and finally 50 days later, he eventually completed what he had set out to do.
Click here for more about Yong’s GO50 run.
PREPARING FOR HIS GO50 RUN WITHOUT ACTUAL RUNNING
To prepare for his GO50 run, Yong took a break from running since the beginning of 2015, instead focusing on doing cross-training activities such as soccer, badminton, floor ball and tennis, as well as walking and weights training.
Explained Yong, “I knew that I would be running a lot during those 50 days, so I decided to do less and focus on training other parts of my body instead, to strengthen myself and hopefully prevent injury during that period.”
In fact, his longest run in the first half of 2015, was only 5km. Added Yong, “But even though I was not actually running, I kept a training log. I tagged an equivalent of running mileage to all the different sports that I took part in, based on how they had felt like to my body. For example, 1 hour of soccer would feel like an 8km run. So in that way, I covered about 160km per week and as GO50 drew nearer, I increased that to 200km per week. The only times when my equivalent mileage was below 200km was during the Chinese New Year period but I still managed to clock at least 160km.”
NO STRANGER TO ULTRA MARATHONS
However, Yong is no stranger to ultra marathons, though. In fact, he has taken part in many ultras, both in Singapore as well as around the world – and has achieved podium positions at many of these races, including the…
- BadWater Ultra Marathon in 2007, a challenging 135-mile footrace through the Death Valley in California, which he completed in 54 hours and 39 minutes.
- 218km Run Round Singapore in 2010, where he finished in 1st place
- Twilight Ultra March 2014, which was a 16 hours non-stop race. Yong clocked 125km and finished in 3rd position.
- Korean Ultra in April 2014, a 24-hours non-stop race, where he completed 173km and finished in 4th place
- Craze Ultra in September 2014, where he came 1st with a timing of 22 hours 37 minutes in the 100 miles category
- Bedok Ultra in October 2014, a 12-hour non-stop race where he came in 1st place and set a new course record of 103.2km.
WAS NEVER A SPORTY CHILD
His achievements are even more astounding, considering that Yong was never a sporty child to begin with. Said Yong, “I wanted to prove that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary feats. I was born with little sports talent – and I was running slower than the girls in primary school, and being bulled by the boys as a result. They knew that if they hit me and ran away, I could not catch up to them.”
Continued Yong, “For example, in Primary 2, I was only 19kg and I fell sick frequently. But I have always wanted to do well at sports. Also, when I was in the Army, I realised that even though I was training in the same manner, eating the same food and sleeping the same hours as everyone else, I could not improve as much as they could. So I have always considered myself a happy ordinary runner.”
SHARED TIPS AT A TALK BY PEOPLE’S ASSOCIATION
Yong had shared all of these insights into his own running background and inspirational stories – as well as a few tips about running, at a running clinic organised by the People’s Association last week.
And after listening to the talk, runners then got to try out Yong’s tips for both running and speed walking – which Yong also uses often during his ultras, to maintain his pace but without wasting too much energy at the same time.
For myself, I found speed walking rather difficult, probably because my muscles are not really used to the range of movements. I guess that for me, to master this skill will probably take a lot of practice!
SEEK MEDICAL CLEARANCE BEFORE YOU START RUNNING
To start out on your running journey, Yong said that seeking medical clearance to see if you have any underlying medical condition, is very important, to begin with. He added, “Seek medical clearance and also get some comfortable gear and running shoes. Do not go out and buy the most expensive running items on the market – comfort is more important. Also increase your mileage and speed gradually. Warm up before you run and cool down after your run is over.”
Continued Yong, “Hydrate yourself both before and after your run and also eat right. Match your running to your fitness level. Run with friends to bring enjoyment into your running and do not push yourself too hard.”
POSTURE AND LANDING
Yong also imparted some tips regarding running posture. He said, “Have your spine straight and upright and do not hunch over your head. That’s the first and most basic technique of running. Your arms should be by your side and do not criss-cross them too much as your balance will not be good and this will affect your running. Instead, swing your arms in a forwards and backwards motion.”
He also added that the foot should land vertically and directly below the body. Said Yong, “Over-striding is a key cause of knee injuries. People who land with their feet way in front of their bodies are most likely to be afflicted with knee injuries.”
Also when you land, he said that you should do so lightly and at the same time, use small strides and high cadence. For breathing, try focusing on breathing out – many people tend to breathe in deeply when they run but more often than not they will end up breathing too hard and hyperventilate as a result.
DOES NOT BELIEVE IN A RUNNING COACH
Yong also does not believe in having a coach for running – unless you have aspirations to reach a certain level. He explained, “Coaching depends on how serious you are at running. If you want to, for example, become South East Asian Games champion in the next two years, or have a specific target, then a coach will help. But for amateur runners who want to improve their health, it is important to simply enjoy your running first. And for running to be enjoyable, you cannot put pressure and lofty goals on yourself.”
He continued, “For example, when I was training for the Run Round Singapore, I would say to myself that I’ll run 24km, and stop at the 10km mark for a cup of coffee. I want to enjoy my runs rather than to go very fast. Also, I will run with friends who are a little bit slower than me, so that we can run together and chitchat. I think this approach will lengthen your running career and lifestyle. Of course though, a coach can check your technique to see if you are doing it correctly. But if you ask me, I find that a more enjoyable and casual approach still suits most people better.”
- Yong and Lim Complete 2,500km in 50 Days
- Finish Line Near for the GO50 Runners
- Running 50km Daily for 50 Days