As the OSIM Sundown Marathon 2017 draws near, many are starting to feel the pressure and the need to train. Are you just starting your training now? Fret not, we are here to help!
In this week’s Sessions before Sundown, we talk to Team Singapore Athlete, long-distance runner and physiotherapist Mok Ying Rong on her passion for running, how to make the best use of your limited last-minute marathon preparation time as well as how to minimise the risk of injury from the sudden increase in training and exertion.
Photo by Mok Ying Rong
OSIM: When did you first pick up long-distance running and what inspired you to do so?
Mok Ying Rong: I picked it up in secondary 2! I decided to switch over from competitive swimming. I just felt like taking up another endurance sport! Running is also a no-frills sport which is great for a student who is constantly broke!
When I ended up in fourth position during my first 10km race, I was pleasantly surprised. Since then, I started running frequently and becoming competitive. I love the feeling of going fast – and getting faster.
What do you think is your greatest running achievement?
I took part in the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships! Even though I ended up being 3rd last, I felt that it was my most rewarding race ever! It was extremely gruelling - we had to run through obstacles at high altitude. I felt breathless just doing an easy run pre-race day. I still think back about it once in a while during tough training sessions.
What is your marathon training regimen like?
I run 6 days a week and do a lot of pre-habilitation work. I do mostly easy runs and long runs. Every week, I do one speed session and one interval or tempo run. I try to fit strength and conditioning exercises into my schedule as often as possible, as they go a long way to prevent injuries. Just running can be injurious especially when done excessively.
Keeping your runs interesting when you run 6 days a week must be tough. How do you do it?
I listen to audiobooks when I run!
Running a marathon also requires a lot of endurance and perseverance. How do you keep yourself physically and mentally strong enough for such a task?
Work on your inner Zen. Ommmmm... It’s a great way to relax my mind after a tiring day.
Photo by Mok Ying Rong
What do you feel is the biggest challenge in running marathons?
The biggest challenge is in overcoming the obstacles I face during the race - mainly, the length of the race. The sheer length of the race makes the end result very unpredictable and this in itself is very challenging to grapple. Anything can happen regardless of how prepared you are!
What is the most common mistake you’ve observed in first-time marathon runners?
Clocking insufficient mileage during training. Participating in a marathon requires a good level of aerobic fitness, so it’s very important to do regular long runs leading up to the race. The long runs should be at least half of your race distance, and done three to four weeks before race day. This doesn’t just prep you physically, but also gives you the confidence of being able to complete the run safely. I would suggest going for 5km or 10km races if one doesn’t have the time or commitment to train for a half or full marathon. Without adequate training, there would be too much strain on the cardiovascular system, which is dangerous.
How do you prepare yourself gradually in the months leading up to the marathon?
I run a lot and fuel up a lot. I probably should also sleep more.
Do you do anything different in the final few days before a marathon?
I mainly hydrate more. I also have more carbohydrates in the week leading up to the race.
What about on race day itself?
My advice for marathoners is to hydrate every 2km to 3km, don’t wait till you’re thirsty. You should also pace yourself and not start out too fast. Some people get excited at the starting line, taking off in a burst of speed and getting tired halfway. For long-distance races, run in a pack to conserve energy until you’re ready to blaze through to the finish line.
What advice can you give for those who are starting their training at the last minute?
Firstly, don't worry!
Secondly, get a physiotherapist to do an injury risk assessment. Work on your significant strength imbalances while doing your last minute prep work! It helps to reduce injury risk! Even though you still are at risk from overloading (i.e too much mileage too soon), at least in the short term, your neuromuscular strength gains can help to minimise any heightened injury risk from the asymmetries.
Thirdly, fuel enough to cope with the sudden increase in exertion.
Lastly, no more last minute preparation work the next time!
Also, bonne chance! (That means “good luck” in French! I subscribe to the French paper 'Le monde' in print so I know a bit of French.)
Running injuries have become the plague of the modern day runner. What advice can you give OSIM Sundown Marathon runners to help them prevent injuries?
Definitely get a physiotherapy session to do a pre-race or even a pre-season prehabilitation injury analysis. It may be biased advice from a physiotherapist (haha!) but you should seriously consider doing it!
How do you relax and recover after a gruelling training session? Do you think therapeutic massages help?
I like to put on some good movies on the projector or just chill out with some tunes from Radiohead and recently more tunes from The 1975!
And definitely yes to therapeutic massages!
How do you feel about running for the OSIM Sundown Marathon 2017?
I’m so excited that I can’t sleep! I can’t wait to challenge my limits again!
Year after year, many aspiring marathoners aim to conquer the OSIM Sundown Marathon to achieve a new milestone – be it a debut marathon completion, or a personal record time. Physical preparation, despite its importance, is only half the battle won. In this edition of Sessions Before Sundown, Team Singapore athlete, mother and civil servant Rachel See shares her tips on how to push yourself further and winning the mental game.
Photo by Rachel See
OSIM: First of all, congratulations again on your win in the Women’s Half Marathon Category at OSIM Sundown Marathon 2016. How did it feel?
Rachel See: Thank you! I was delighted to finish in 1st place, although I felt that I could have finished even faster. There’s always this year to look forward to though!
Do tell us more about yourself, including your greatest achievements, plans and goals.
I am a 34-year-old full-time working mother who simply loves to run – it’s my favourite hobby. I would consider my biggest achievement, at least sports-wise, to be representing Singapore in the marathon at SEA Games 2015. For now, what I’m focusing on is my usual training and running, as well as taking care of my family, and balancing both my social and working life!
What do you love most about running marathons and what are your biggest challenges?
I love the feeling of being able to draw strength from within, and the sense of achievement that comes from knowing I had put up a brave fight. Marathon running can be a very cruel sport and even the most well-prepared runner may meet with unexpected situations or accidents.
Most of the time, it takes a great deal of mental strength and willpower to overcome challenges like an unexpected stomach upset midway through your race. The most important thing is trying your best to deal with these physical limitations, as you will never know the outcome until you have finished the race.
Running a marathon requires a lot of endurance and perseverance. How do you keep yourself physically and mentally strong enough for such a task?
It is important to be confident and believe in your ability. I think it also helps once you have experienced setbacks and managed to overcome them, so you know that anything is possible. However, this belief must also be backed by hard work, sufficient training and a strong, resilient mentality during races.
We hear your husband is also a runner. Do you bring the entire family out for runs?
I do run with my husband sometimes, but I try not to bring the kids. They are rather young at 7 and 4 years old, so I doubt that they can run 1 km. On occasion, I do bring my elder girl to cycle or roller blade while I run alongside her – it usually works out to about a 4-minute pace for me, which is quite a good workout overall.
Photo by Rachel See
You are a mother, civil servant and runner. How do you find time to do everything and train?
Honestly, I am lucky to enjoy strong family support, especially from my mother-in-law who understands my love for running. My hubby and I leave our kids with her when we join our group of running buddies for our long weekend runs. It would be impossible to run together if not for her help.
At other times, my hubby and I will take turns to run as the other will be taking care of the girls at home. It really boils down to proper time management, and prioritising your tasks.
How do you prepare yourself in the weeks leading up to the marathon?
I try to clock an average mileage of around 70km, which is considered rather low for marathoners. This mileage comprises 8 – 10km runs 4 times a week, with a long run on weekends of between 25km and 30km. I constantly try to increase my mileage and do some track workouts as well.
How do you plan to break that record of yours, and do you have any advice for your fellow participants?
I aim to better my timing through proper nutrition and hopefully get more rest for race day. I didn’t really get to rest the day prior to OSIM Sundown Marathon 2016 and could feel lethargy seeping in halfway. That’s why I’m placing extra emphasis on rest and recovery this time round.
Hopefully, my tips can help you break your own record by taking part in the OSIM Sundown Marathon 2017. Till then, see you!
Singapore is a land of festivities, thanks to our multi-racial society. Not that we are complaining, it seems there is a festival to celebrate every other month! While it is great to be able to enjoy the festivals with family and friends, it might disrupt our training and hinder our progress. Consistent training is important, especially when training for long distance running.
Continuing with our Sessions before Sundown, we talk to Ng Hanbin, Team Singapore basketball player and full-time player for the Singapore Slingers, on tips to keeping a regular training regimen.
Photo by Ng Hanbin
OSIM: What made you fall so in love with basketball that you decided to play professionally?
Hanbin: My friend persuaded me to join the school basketball team, and once I found out I exceled in the sport, I got hooked! I believe it is every basketball player’s dream to have a go at playing professionally. For me, it was no different. I was given the opportunity to represent the country at a young age and had a good exposure of the basketball world outside of Singapore. The realisation of how much room for improvement I need to compete at the next level inspired me to get better every day and simply see how far I can go in this sport. It has been really rewarding thus far.
What goal do you hope to achieve next in your sporting career? How do you plan to achieve that goal?
Definitely hope to contribute to the success of the Singapore Slingers and win the ASEAN Basketball League this year. This will prepare us to achieve another milestone for Singapore Basketball in the upcoming 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. My plan is to get in the best shape and put in tons of unseen hours behind the scenes. I strongly believe that when the time comes for me to shine, I will be ready.
You spend a lot of your off-training time promoting the value of sports in schools in Singapore. Why do you feel this is important?
I feel that our society has the wrong perception of sports in Singapore. Not only is a sporting career feasible locally, there are endless benefits that one can gain from tough trainings and adversities, both physically and mentally. Sports build character, and when the students develop the right attitude towards learning through sports, it will help them in other areas of life as well. This is why I jump at the opportunity to be able to interact with the younger generation. Hopefully, I will get the chance to reach out to their parents too.
What do you wish to tell the youth of Singapore who dream of having a sports career?
The world is your oyster. Listen to your inner voice and fight for your dreams. There will be people telling you what you should do or discourage you from doing what you love, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is doing what makes you happy.
Photo by Sport Singapore
What do you think are some of the similarities between basketball and running a marathon?
Basketball and running a marathon are both physically and mentally challenging. That is the beauty of sports. As you train yourself to be mentally tough in the OSIM Sundown Marathon, you will also find yourself mentally tougher in facing other adversities in life.
How often do you run and for what distance each time?
As basketball is a game that emphasizes more on sprints than endurance running, we place more emphasis on endurance running during the off-season, when we run and sprint approximately 5km up the hills and on the tracks each time. On a regular basis, we sprint up and down the court for a good two hours. It felt like we ran 100km at the end, but I really cannot be sure! It could be more!
How does running help with your game?
Running helps to build stamina, which is a key component in the game. A lack of stamina can affect one’s ability to execute his skills consistently. There have been many cases when basketball games are ultimately won by outrunning the opponents.
After a long festive holiday, like the Lunar New Year break, how do you usually get back into your normal training routine?
That is no reason to stop training! I would find time to work out and improve my game. For instance, I will take an hour of my day to hit the gym for some light running or work on my shots.
How do you resist all the good food during the festive season? What are some of your favourite food during Lunar New Year?
In my opinion, it is fine to eat all the good food as long as you do so in moderation. One food I look forward to every Lunar New Year has to be bak kwa. I don’t usually crave for it the rest of the year, but because it is the Lunar New Year … Haha! But before I take another bite out of my third huge piece of bak kwa, I will consider how it will jeopardize my training, whether it will cause me to fall sick due to it being heaty. That is how I control my food intake.
Do you train harder after the festive season because of this?
I train as hard as I can each time. I believe that one should always challenge their limits every training, if not it is another day wasted.
What tips do you have for OSIM Sundown Marathon runners to get back on track and start training again after a break?
I would suggest coming up with a progressive training plan and most importantly, to stick to the plan. It is almost impossible to go all out after a long break. Hence, it would be ideal to start off slow, condition your body back to its pre-festive form, gradually increase the distance and push (yet know) your limits.
What is your usual training schedule like? How do you recover and relax in between sessions?
Our training schedule changes according to our game schedule each week, but generally we focus on our individual skills for two hours (10am to 12nn) in the morning and as a team for three hours (7pm to 10pm) at night. My recovery routine includes 15–30 minute stretches and 15 minutes of icing down my knees and Achilles (due to past injuries). I will also try to squeeze in a 90 minute recovery nap before my training at night.
Have you used any OSIM products to help recover faster? If so, what are they and what did you like about it?
Yes, I do. If I have the luxury of time in the afternoon, I would use the uLove massage chair, which is available at the Singapore Sports Institute Athletes’ Service Centre, to relax my tight back muscles. I would also use the uPhoria Warm leg massager available at Changi Airport before our flights (for overseas training and competition). I especially like how the leg massager rolls on my heel, which helps to ease the pain of plantar fasciitis.
Lastly, what tips do you have for everyone on how to get the most out of their training, be it for running or for any other sporting activity?
I set personal targets when I work on my shots and will not stop till my targets are met. Many times, I end up taking more shots than what I set out to achieve. The key is not to meet your target but to aim to exceed them. Challenge your limits every time you step on the court or track. Trust me, you will end up surprising yourself every time
Undoubtedly one of the greatest sporting achievements, Olympians are viewed as pinnacles of human fitness and strength. Olympic windsurfer and Team Singapore athlete Leonard Ong is no exception. He did the nation proud by qualifying for the windsurfing finals in Rio 2016, the first in three decades for Singapore. Currently a full-time student and part-time coach at a public sea sports centre, it is hard to believe that this high-achiever is only 25.
Every start of the year, many set out to achieve self-improvement in different areas of their lives. Ever wondered what an Olympic athlete hopes to improve on? In this part of our Sessions Before Sundown series, we had a chat with Leonard on his sporting resolutions this year and his advice on keeping yours too.
Photo by Sport Singapore
OSIM: Congratulations on reaching the finals in Rio 2016! What was it like to represent Singapore at the Olympics?
Leonard: Thank you! I was very fortunate to be able to represent Singapore at the Rio Olympics in 2016. It was a great feeling standing among champions and realising that the person you are dining with could be the next Olympic medallist!
The journey leading up to the Olympics also gave me the chance to train with many great windsurfers in different countries. It was fun witnessing the different cultures, learning different techniques and making lifelong friends. It makes racing at the Olympics so much more meaningful with these memories.
Similar to running a marathon, it is not just about the finish line at the end of the race. It is about the journey of training to cross the finishing line!
Photo by Sport Singapore
What have you been doing since the Olympics?
After the Olympics ended, I went straight back to school. It was a good change of focus, where I got to work my mind.
What do you love most about windsurfing and what is its biggest challenge?
Wind surfing is a sport that allows me to enjoy nature. My biggest love of it is the speed. It's amazing how fast we can go just by using the wind and the forces of nature. The biggest challenge of windsurfing is that it is physically and mentally demanding. We have to be strong enough to handle our equipment in different conditions, yet still mentally fresh to make good tactical decisions.
Also, another challenge is being in the sun! I’ll normally hide in the shade even though windsurfers are said to be fearless of sunlight. I actually dislike it!
Both windsurfing and long distance running require a lot of endurance and perseverance. How do you keep yourself physically and mentally strong enough for such a task?
I agree that windsurfing and long distance running is very similar. We normally do a lot of endurance training such as running, cycling and rowing. We cross train to keep things fresh so that we will not be bored.
One thing I love about long distance windsurfing, which is similar to long distance running, is the changing scenery. I enjoy looking around and seeing different things. That keeps me going mentally and breaks the monotony.
How do you relax and recover after a gruelling training session? Do you think therapeutic massages help?
After a tough training session, the first thing we do is stretch. It helps reduce muscle soreness and tightness from the workout. While stretching, I will be thinking of the delicious meal I am going to have after! Local food like Wanton Mee fuels me with a ton of goodness!
Therapeutic massage is the best kind of treatment after training hard. Not only is it good for your body, it is good for your mind too. You will feel as though you are ready to take on the world for another heart-pumping and muscle-aching workout.
What are your resolutions this year in sports and in your personal life? Do you have any advice for OSIM Sundown Marathon runners on how to keep their running resolutions?
This year, I have decided to take a different approach to sports. Instead of trying to accomplish huge achievements, I want to enjoy the fun of competing, to see the joy in friendly competition.
Friendly competition encourages us to fight hard but focuses on the personal learning process. It is not always about overtaking one more person. It could be as simple as improving my own lap timing. Seeing myself improve gives me joy.
In my personal life, I plan to learn some new skills and make life a little more exciting. I would also like to challenge myself to try new things, starting with the OSIM Sundown Marathon!
As for keeping your running resolutions, I feel morning runs are the best. It is cooling before the sunrise and a great feeling to finish your workout before your day has even started. A great way to overcome the difficulty of getting out of bed is to have your friends to run with you. It makes the runs seem shorter and a lot more enjoyable.
You too can try something new with me by taking part in the OSIM Sundown Marathon 2017. This will be my first ever running event!
When life is a marathon, who better to seek advice from, than the stellar athletes of Team Singapore?
Competing in a marathon can be hard work, with countless hours of preparation, training and sacrifice going into a single race. As the Sundown Marathon draws near, we decided to sit down with some of Team Singapore’s athletes and find out what keeps them going.
In Part 1 of our Sessions before Sundown, 27 year-old Team Singapore athlete Fang Jianyong shares his views on passion, running, and the value of not giving up.
Photo by Sport Singapore
OSIM: Hi Jianyong, you’re widely acknowledged for your superb range of competitive distance running, whether it’s 800m, 1500m or marathons around the world. Can you tell us how your running journey started?
Jianyong: My love for this sport started during recess time in my primary school days. Like any other Singaporean kid who grew up in the 90s, “Catching” and “Police and Thief” were the all-time favourite pastimes during breaks. So it was quite an easy decision to take up track and field as an extra-curricular activity. From running competitively in primary school sprint events, I got selected to participate in the National Primary School meet. Thereafter, running became my sport throughout my academic years.
Photo by Sport Singapore
Seems like you’ve been running a long time then! How do you prepare for each marathon and stay motivated after all these years?
When it comes to preparation, visualising the race during workouts and doing race simulation trainings help – for example, running 26km at a slighter faster pace than I would during an actual race. At the end of the day, the satisfaction from running each good race, and the hunger to come back stronger from a bad one, keeps me motivated to compete.
In the recent Standard Chartered Marathon, you came in third despite undergoing a knee surgery just a few months ago. Congratulations! Considering the circumstances, this is surely your proudest achievement?
Thank you. Every marathon race is different, but if there’s one thing in common, it’s that none are easy. Between the Standard Chartered Marathon and the Gold Coast Marathon earlier this year, it’s hard to choose which one I’m prouder of. I competed on both with limited training – four to five weeks to be exact. I ran the Gold Coast Marathon with a partially torn meniscus and managed to clock a personal best timing of 2 hours 34 minutes and 33 seconds. And then I ran the Standard Chartered Marathon four months after having my meniscus repaired. With each run, I would end up with swollen knees, which was difficult. So to manage a podium finish…it is probably one of my prouder moments as well!
Wow, sounds like you’ve had a really bad break with injuries.
There’s no denying they are a huge setback, but on the flip side, they also provide a great learning curve and help me to improve as a person. I learn how to better manage my body and avoid going through the same injuries again.
At the same time, it teaches me empathy. For example, when I see fellow runners facing the same difficult moments, I can cheer them on without hesitation, having been in similar tough spots before. This very much applies to other aspects of life as well. The tough patches during a race or injuries sustained in the build-up to a marathon are actually very similar, and if I can come back and not give up on running after two surgeries, I can pretty much take on anything in life…I hope!
Ha-ha, we’ll hold you to that! So what’s the next big dream? And speaking of fellow runners, do you have any advice for aspiring Sundowners or athletes in general?
Well the big goal for me is breaking the 2-hour-29-minute barrier and qualifying for the SEA Games in 2017. But before that, I’ll be running a half-marathon at the upcoming Sundown Marathon. I’m looking forward to hitting the road and taking on the course with everyone else. In terms of advice, I would say every small step takes you closer to the big goal – and never give up because you will never know how close you are to the big goal!
Can you share your preparation tips for the OSIM Sundown Marathon 2017 participants?
Before any workout can be planned, we have to assess our fitness levels. Generally, newcomers should pace themselves and start with 10km, progressively increasing the training distance till they can do the full 42.2km. There should also be a variation of workouts to cover all training aspects, such as long runs, tempo runs, and interval workouts.
Long runs should start from a 20km distance, with runners moving on to 30-35km distances 3 weeks before the race. Tempo runs can be done at the targeted marathon pace, and one should start doing these for 8km before moving to a half-marathon distance 2 weeks before the race. Interval training is the fastest-paced one of these, and should have two variations – one with a stationary rest and the other with a recovery jog-in between sets. Ideal interval sessions would be 8-10 sets of 1km at 10-21km race pace, with a 3-minute recovery.