Blog

ST Articles 2018

Wk Title / Description Writer Themes
0 ST: On your Mok, set, go! Mok Ying Ren Launch >> ST Run 2018
1 ST: Importance of a Good Training Plan! Dr Ivan Low Training Plan
2 ST: The relevance of pre-participation screening Dr Yeo Tee Joo Risks & Injuries
3 ST: How do i manage my training sessions? Mok Ying Ren Training Plan
4 ST: Preparations to tackle an overseas run! Ashley Liew Overseas Runs
5 ST: How to maximise your recovery period? Mok Ying Ren Recovery
6 ST: Minimising risks in running Dr Malcolm Mahadevan Risks & Injuries
7 ST: Music to the ears! Mok Ying Ren Music
8 ST: Why runners run … away Ben Moreau Overseas Runs
9 ST: To outlast … run in a community! Jed Senthil Community
10 ST: Outdo yourself with proper hydration! Mok Ying Ren Hydration
11 ST: Running the right way Sharon Lim Running Gait
12 ST: Getting into the right kicks! Mok Ying Ren Footwear
13 ST: Master running as you age Evan Chee Inspiration
14 ST: Not an uphill task! Mok Ying Ren Slope Training
15 ST: Back in the days Dr Low Cheng Hock Inspiration
16 ST: The Final Countdown Mok Ying Ren Pre-race Tips
17 ST: You have done it! Mok Ying Ren Post-race Tips
18 ST: Remember The Poor Jed Senthil Community
19 ST: Sleeping right! Mok Ying Ren Sleeping
20 ST: Shredding my weight to go the distance! Banjamin Quek Inspiration
21 ST: Journeying through pain and injuries Mok Ying Ren Risks & Injuries
22 ST: Taking a (sick) break from running Dr Wang Mingchang Risks & Injuries
23 ST: Every drop counts! Mok Ying Ren Community
24 ST: Reflections of a runner’s wife Mrs Belinda Mok & Mok Ying Ren Inspiration
25 ST: Take a deep breath Mok Ying Ren Breathing
26 ST: Mastering your self during a run! Edgar Tham Sports Psychology
27 ST: 3 Important Factors to Ace Your Race! Mok Ying Ren Pre-race Tips
28 ST: Preparing during the next 24 hours! Volker Herrmann Pre-race Tips
29  ST: The Finish Line Mok Ying Ren  Inspiration

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Mok Ying Ren

ST: The Finish Line

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 16 Dec 2018.

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MOK YING REN A huge congratulations to all who completed last week’s Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, especially those who finished the arduous 42.195km full marathon!

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In the blink of an eye, 2018 has come to an end and so has this year’s #RunWithMok column, which was in partnership with the Straits Times Run and the Singapore Marathon. It feels like only yesterday when we embarked on this journey together to train up for two major races in Singapore.

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Over the span of just a few months, my fellow contributors and I have touched on a myriad of running-related topics. Many of these had also piqued my curiosity when I first started on my running journey. I hope that we have been able to address your doubts and queries adequately, as you #LearnWithMok. (Recap all articles for 2018 HERE!)

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It is also an opportune time for me to thank the ST Sports Desk Team for their support and inputs; fellow columnists who were generous with their experience and expertise; all the readers and race participants who were very forthcoming in writing into #AskMok to ask questions and attending the various talks and run clinics. A big pat on the back for those who diligently followed the RunONE training programme and our Sunday columns for 30 weeks! You have truly made the journey memorable! Thank you!

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Double SEA Games Gold Medalist & 7-time SCMS Local Champion, Mok Ying Ren against a common but scenic backdrop for local races. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

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To conclude this column, I would like to share 3 takeaways that can be applied to your running journey henceforth, so that you can continue running!

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Be consistent

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Mok Ying Ren, Double SEA Games Gold Medalist & 7-times SCMS Local Champion. Photo credits: ONEathlete 

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Consistency is essential to any life pursuit, be it relationships, studies, work and, of course, running. Consistency means maintaining a certain level of frequency over an extended period of time.

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Consistency in your running journey would mean, for example, running at least twice a week, regardless if you are training for a specific event. This will prevent your fitness and muscular adaptations from degenerating and allow you to bounce back to high-quality training within a shorter time. It will also reduce your risk of injury risk when you step up for your next training programme.

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Be conservative

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Mok Ying Ren, Double SEA Games Gold Medalist & 7-times SCMS Local Champion. Photo credits: ONEathlete 

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Always adopt a conservative approach to your training programme. It is very easy, and almost natural, to allow our haste and impatience to hijack our plans. On days when we feel good, we tend to want to do more or push ourselves that bit harder. Sometimes, it is wiser to hold your horses and allow your body to adapt and enjoy the fitness it has achieved at a methodical pace.

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As you progress in your training, you should aim to increase your training volume and intensity incrementally. Take baby steps and avoid sudden ramp-up. Doing too much, too soon, is really a recipe for disaster. As the saying goes, ‘more haste, less speed’.

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Be unique individually

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Mok Ying Ren, Double SEA Games Gold Medalist & 7-times SCMS Local Champion. Photo credits: ONEathlete 

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You would appreciate that we have placed great emphasis on each runner ’s individuality. This applies, not only to training programmes and routines but also to smaller details like hydration and nutrition needs. Truly, one man’s meat is, and can often be another man’s poison.

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I myself am guilty of having committed the cardinal mistake of replicating and religiously following training programmes of top runners in the world, only to be saddled with injuries and disappointment.

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This is not to say that you cannot draw inspiration from the best athletes or should not adopt practices that your well-intentioned friends have recommended – you can, and you should. However, you should first put some thought into what you have read or heard and then make a considered decision on whether to follow through and embrace them as yours. Blindly following the group may do you more harm than good.

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Photo credits: RunONE

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With this, the RunONE Team and I, are signing off! We would like to wish all of you an early Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Recap all articles for 2018 HERE!

See you again next year on #RunWithMok!

More local stars emerge at SCSM 2018!

9 Dec 2018 – The weatherman told us it would be one of the coolest Decembers Singapore has seen recently. Expect showers, they said. Just not in the morning, we hoped. There is a fine line between comfortably cool, perhaps with a slight drizzle, and uncomfortably cats-and-dogs wet. Like the line that serious athletes who push their limits must (eventually) learn to run – too much and you risk blowing up; too gentle and you do not leave your mark. It is a calculated risk that athletes hone over their months and years of preparation.

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Photo credits: RunONE

On a particular December morning for the past 17 years, it  is a drill well rehearsed that see throngs of runners take to the streets of Singapore for the marquee running event on Singapore’s race calendar. Among the close to 50,000 who turned up in this year’s Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM), a few seek to race the clock and the shadows of yesterdays. But against the backdrop of gearing up for the World Marathon Majors, what made this year’s SCSM extra special, is the number of new faces and rising stars on the circuit.

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SCSM Day 1 – 10km Men’s and Women’s Race

In the 10km race category, Vanja Cnops, a Belgian-based researcher in Singapore, won the female race with a time of 40:07. She is no stranger to the podium, having most recently won the King of the Trails 4 female’s race! Goh Chui Ling was the top-ranked Singaporean female runner who came in 3rd with a time of 41:56, marking an improvement of over a minute from her results at the Great Eastern Women’s 10km race, where she also came in 3rd with a timing of 43:00. The rising track star (who trained for the race under former SA Technical Director, Volker Herrmann) shared with RunONE, that this would likely be her last 10km race as she turns her focus back towards the track season, which will get underway soon. Due to a lack of varied terrain for running in Singapore, it is not uncommon for track runners to diversify and switch up their training by either going into road, or trail, races, during the track offseason.

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Men’s and Women’s 10km Winners at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2018. (3rd from left) Kim Mangrobang from the Philippines, and (3rd from right) Ka Ho Chan from Hong Kong, with the Singaporean Winners. Photo credits: RunONE

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Separately, in the 10km Men’s category, ActiveSG athlete Shobib Marican was the top-ranked Singaporean, winning the silver with a time of 35:58. Shobib trains under coach Steven Quek, whose training ethos is based on a firm belief in consistency. In a short post-race interview with RunONE, Shobib felt that the familiarity earned through hard training gives him a certain level of confidence heading into the race – that the hard work is in the bag. One change that he liked about this year’s SCSM, was the reduction in bottle-neck as the race turned into a 2-day event with the half and full marathon event separated from the 10km. This allowed the 10km racers to better focus on executing their race.

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From Left to Right: Vanja (Winner Female’s 10km), Shobib (2nd Men’s 10km), Chui Ling (3rd Female’s 10km) Photo credits: RunONE

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SCSM Day 2 – Half and Full Marathon Men’s and Women’s Race

With the majority of race participants signing up for the half and full marathon, excitement was almost always certain to build up towards day 2, as the finale of this SCSM weekend.

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Photo credits: RunONE

ONEathlete & Under Armour Ambassador Banjamin Quek finished 3rd in the Local Men’s Half Marathon category with a time of 1:22 under trying circumstances.

Speaking to The Straits Times & RunONE at the end of the whole ordeal, Banja felt that the route was ‘good but tough’. He thought that the organisers could have done better by having more water points along the highways and better management of the human traffic who were  leaving the race village, as evident from the long queues and crowd bottleneck observed.

Banja also wants to acknowledge and thank the prompt medical attention he received when he nearly collapsed after crossing the finish, a sign that the organizers have paid strong emphasis and close heed to safety issues following earlier race-related fatalities.

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Men’s and Women’s 42km Local Champions of SCSM 2018. (From left) Rachel See, Mohd Iskandar, Soh Rui Yong, Lim Baoying, Giebert Foo and He Xiuying. 5 of them made it to the Top 20 Marathon Overall (Men’s and Women’s) leaderboard that was dominated by the Kenyans. Photo credits: RunONE

In the Full Marathon category, last year’s Men’s Champion Soh Rui Yong defended his title by winning with a time of 2:41:49. Trackstar Athletics’s Mohd Iskandar (2:49:46) who finished 5th Local in 2017, and Giebert Foo (2:54:14) etched into the Men’s top 3 to end the year with a well-deserved blast.

Newer faces on the podium, and more local runners in the sub-3 hour timings displayed the rising competitiveness of the local marathon circuit. Several others include Ho Ghim Khoon (2:56:02, 5th), and Tan Wei Jie (2:59:01, 8th) were also hopeful nominees who started off from the Elite Pen. Another notable young star is Daniel Leow who trains with the Singapore Shufflers and made a remarkable 38 minutes improvement over his 2017 results!

Giebert Foo’s SCSM2017 Ekiden Team, Victorious Secret Angels, retained their 2nd position in 2018, with the 5th and last runner, Soh Hua Qun speeding through to finish with a time of 2:44:46.

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ONEathlete Evan Chee finished in 4th place with a time of 2:55:00, narrowly missing out on the podium by just under 1 minute while Ashley Liew suffered in the latter half of the race to finish in 3:09. Having won the SCMS in 2012 and coming in 2nd last year, it was clearly not his best performance by a large margin.

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Photo credits: RunONE

While this year’s preparation was largely similar to previous years, Ashley had tried incorporating minor tweaks in this year’s SCSM lead-up by racing more short distance events. Nonetheless, with his 2:41 finish at the Tokyo Marathon earlier in Feb 2018, Ashley remains the second fastest Singaporean over the Marathon distance this year. The upcoming offseason will provide an ideal window for Ashley to rethink his training and race strategies, and regroup before the 2019 season.

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Photo credits: RunONE

Before the race, Evan had set his focus on a singular goal and that is to improve upon his 2017 results by snagging a season-best finish quicker than his Gold Coast Marathon result of 2:51. Training was definitely different this year as Evan had to lay off running while recovering from injury for good part of the year since Jan. Mileage remained low throughout most of 2018 until the 2 months leading up to SCSM, when he finally managed to put in consistent weekly mileage above 100km.

As a result, Evan has had to adjust his race execution by focusing more on execution and good pacing strategy for this year. In the end, he managed to secure a 4th place finish in a highly competitive event like SCSM, which also doubled up as the National Championship for the 2nd year running.

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Making the podium for the Women’s Marathon was, Dr Lim Baoying who was not an elite runner (starting from Pen A) emerged as the surprise winner with a time of 3:16:36; 2017 defending women’s champion, Rachel See, was strong through the first 30km of the race with an average pace of 4:25min/km and had to dig deep in the closing kilometres of the race to finish 2nd at 3:18:36. He Xiuying rounded up the podium with a very respectable finish of 3:18:57.x

Evan’s sister, Yvonne Elizabeth Chee, also competing in the elite female category for the first time, finished in 4th place with a time of 3:25. She had skipped the 2017 Marathon post-pregnancy, and geared her way into ‘her special spot’. The civil servant and mother of two also thanked her husband, who ‘made it possible’ by taking care of their children to afford her precious time away for her training runs. Singapore’s marathon Olympian, Neo Jie Shi came in 5th at 3:27:31.

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From Left to Right: The Chee Siblings and Dr Ansgar Cheng (2nd Local Men’s Masters). Photo credits: RunONE

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With the conclusion of SCSM 2018, the hectic running season in Singapore comes to a pause as we, runners and spectators alike, usher in the festive season and a time to share with our loved ones! As we gather to celebrate love, friendship and hope during this holiday, the future for Singapore’s running looks bright given the performance and number of rising local stars at SCSM 2018. A starry, starry future beholds.

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Members of the ONE team joined by friends of the running circuit. Photo credits: RunONE

ST: Preparing during the next 24 hours!

This article was first published in The Straits Times on 8 December 2018

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VOLKER HERRMANN – Race days are often the highlight of an athlete’s career. You have invested weeks and months, and made substantial sacrifices in every area of your life, for these precious moments of racing. When so much is on the line, naturally you would want to make every moment count, and every step you take prior to your race day is crucial.
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D-1: Take it as just another day

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One of the biggest secret to succeed is to, ironically, approach race day as an average training day. While it is important to prepare well, you should not try to make the day an unusual one, especially if you are thinking of experimenting or trying something new.

If you are sharing your experience with your friends and supporters, remember to give them instructions beforehand, especially to be stationed at the parts of the race you would need their support and morale boosters the most!

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IAAF lecturer, Volker Herrmann sharing his race tips with National Marathoner & ONEathlete Ashley Liew, who will be running the SCSM 2018 tomorrow. Photo credits: RunONE

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H-18: Prepare early

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Prepare your equipment the night before, like your shoes, socks, shorts and singlet (pin your number bib). It is important not to wear anything you have not worn at least three or four times before, preferably for your training sessions. You would not want to experience any unusual (unexpected)  discomfort during your race. Tapes and lubricating gels should be used to cover sensitive body parts which are prone to abrasions.

If you are listening to music, prepare the playlist beforehand.

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H-12: Get some sleep

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It is normal to be anxious before your race –  all your hard work culminates in this one day. It is usual to not have the deepest sleep the night before your race. Even top athletes are not spared the sleeplessness and anxiety  before race day. It is actually the sleep several days out that plays a bigger role in your performance on race day. So, try not to think about your race on that night! If you are racing at a time that is not during your usual training hours, it is best to slowly adjust your sleep and training patterns accordingly, at least eight to ten days before the marathon. This will also greatly help in your sleep for the night before the race.
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H-3: Have a simple meal

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Try to have breakfast at least three hours before the start of the marathon, preferably food with a low glycemic index, so that  your blood glucose level will rise slower and more steadily. Avoid acidic fruits and fruit juices, and go for bananas. It will be best to stay away from dairy products too.

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H-1: Make your way to the start line

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Always be early for your race, and plan your way to the starting line taking into account road closures, long queues, and huge crowds!

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Get in your dynamic warm-ups.

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H: Stick to your race plan

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Facing competition often raises adrenaline levels, and naturally, you would  have a tendency to run too fastin the first few kilometers. It would be prudent to hold off in the first ten minutes and start slightly slower than  your planned race pace. If you are using fixed splits for different intervals (e.g. the 5k, 10km, or half marathon mark), write them down on your forearm. Having a quick look makes it easy to check whether you are following the race plan.
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Have a blast at 2018 Singapore Marathon!

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Volker Herrmann is an international high performance sport consultant and an IAAF lecturer. He was the former Technical Director for SAA, and works with athletes and coaches on a global scale.
Volker Herrmann is an international high performance sport consultant and an IAAF lecturer. He was the former Technical Director for SAA, and works with athletes and coaches on a global scale.

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Feel Good Giving!

26 Nov 2018 – The folks at the lululemon brought together a bunch of highly flexible (with an exception of our dearest, RunONE Co-founder, Jed :p ) and creative, individuals for a very thoughtfully planned weekend retreat at Sofitel Singapore. For all who attended, it seemed like a much-needed getaway – away from all the buzz and really busy lives – on Sentosa Island.

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Photo credits (all the photos on this post): @stefanusian

All the lululemon Ambassadors and invited guests (from Singapore & Malaysia) were encouraged to put away their mobiles and anything that could potentially distract them from being fully present. Now, while you might feel that this would be like losing an arm or leg, our Co-founder (who stopped replying any messages or emails till the end of the day) said that it really gave him the time to reflect, process and be intentional about life in general. Ultimately, the virtue of MINDFULNESS was introduced.

Each of the sessions was centered around the core identity of the brand. For example, the participants encountered CHOICE when they explored possibilities during the first session, when they had a ‘unicorn brainstorm’ to list all the possibilities in their lives and overcome self-limiting beliefs to craft a reality-redefining ‘Possibility Statement’! After all, the biggest obstruction to our goals is our own limiting beliefs.

What are the values you stand for? What are your own core values that define you? The facilitators got the peeps to identify these from a laundry list of values, before zooming in on the main themes and values. This effectively created a greater sense of self-awareness and MINDFULNESS of what is really important to and is driving us!

Every morning also began with silence (where participants did not engage in any conversation) and PRACTICE modern yoga and meditation. “The last time I did yoga was about more than 20 years ago,” Jed quipped. But we guess it did him much good, as he said he was more flexible and woke up with no back pains the next day. (Editor’s note: Can we send Jed to you guys again?)

No man is an island (pun intended despite being on Sentosa!) and indeed, the COLLECTIVE of facilitators, organizers, 30 participants and support crew all played a pivotal role in each participant’s journey and experience. Intimate and transparent sharing knit their trust with one another and strengthened the friendships! New relationships were forged. Needless to say, the goodbyes were now a little harder on the last day!

Despite this, a more meaningful finale would be to now go out as empowered individuals, and impact other lives positively! Lululemon S.E.A. wants these 30 Ambassadors and invited guests to experience the joy of giving and gave them each, 3 affirming cards and gift cards to bless others with!

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Photo credits: RunONE

It is indeed more of a blessing to give than to receive. Not just with gifts and cards, but also to give of ourselves to this world, through deliberate PRACTICE, intentional MINDFULNESS, and unlimiting CHOICES, with this lululemon COLLECTIVE! May you #feelgoodgiving too!

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Photo credits (all the photos on this post): @stefanusian

The last lap as you #RunWithMok

1 Dec 2018 – The final pacer run before the 2018 Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (#SCSM2018) was on 8th and 9th December 2018 was held in partnership with several partners comprising of Ironman, Under Armour Pacers (from Running Department), and 100PLUS together with their Ambassador, 7-time SCMS Local Champion & ONEathlete, Mok Ying Ren

 

Before the run, Mok Ying Ren took the stage to answer questions raised by the participants. This was an enthusiastic crowd, asking questions ranging from his pre-race warm-up routine to pacing strategies, to his preferred pre-race breakfast. One of the key topics he shared about was hydration.

 

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Photo credits: ONEathlete / RunONE

Hydration is of paramount importance to a successful race. However, he noted that a substantial number of runners visit the medical tent due to overhydration. They have drunk excessive amounts of water, resulting in a condition known as hyponatremia – low sodium levels. This results in them feeling giddy and fatigued, symptoms not unlike dehydration.

Mok advised that it is important to drink to the point of thirst and allow our bodies’ natural regulating systems to decide how much we should drink on race day. He also suggested that runners should get used to the isotonic drink (that will be available during the race day) during their training itself. 

 

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Photo credits: ONEathlete / RunONE

Thankfully, the early morning rain had cleared out just before the morning event started and participants got to enjoy beautiful, cooling weather for most of the run.

 

In this final pacer run, the participants were divided into pacing groups based on their targeted Half marathon and Full marathon timings. Half marathon runners ran 12km while the Full marathon runners ran 15km around iconic Singapore sites such as Marina Bay Sands and Singapore Flyer. Mok Ying Ren started off with the first pacing group before striking it out on his own for the last part of the run. 

 

Post run, Mok Ying Ren continued to mingle with the participants as they streamed into the finishing area after their runs and had their complimentary breakfast sets. It was also a great opportunity for the runners to #askmok their questions on hydration, pacing, and even their running gait! 

 

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Photo credits: ONEathlete / RunONE

The official hydration sponsor of SCMS, 100PLUS Singapore provided the hydration for the morning. There was no lack of hydration both during and after the run. With B Vitamins (B3, B6 & B12), Non-Carbonated 100PLUS ACTIVE is specially designed to facilitate energy production, as well as to aid in after-sports recovery. An apt choice for the pacer run and preps for #SCSM2018.

 

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Participants, Under Armour Pacers (from Running Department), and 100PLUS together with their Ambassador, 7-time SCMS Local Champion & ONEathlete, Mok Ying Ren. Photo credits: ONEathlete / RunONE

ST: 3 IMPORTANT FACTORS TO ACE UR RACE!

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 02 Dec 2018.

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#AskMok

  1. Is it advisable to eat a snack while running the race to replenish energy? – Anonymous
  2. I hope to achieve a certain time goal. Is it better to run my own race, or run together with someone? – Anonymous

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MOK YING RENIn just another week, you will be taking on the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon which you have been training so hard for over the past few months. Compared to the Straits Times Run 18.45km race, the marathon is and will be a whole different ball game altogether!

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If you recall, I had shared 3 race tips prior to the Straits Times Run – start slow, prepare well, and have a good race etiquette. To build on these, I will now focus on 3 important factors.

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Mok Ying Ren (seen here answering questions and preparing runners during the ST Run 2017 – Festival Village), hopes the #RunWithMok column has prepared you sufficiently for SCSM 2018. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

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Race Nutrition – Run at your best

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The marathon is an incredibly long race, and no matter how fast a runner you are, you will have to top up your energy regularly.

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One of the best ways to replenish your fuel during the race would be to consume sports gels. These gels resemble baby food and are packed with high glycemic index sugars which are easily digestible. A good rule of thumb to follow would be to consume one packet of gel every 45 to 60 minutes, and accompanied by plain water for hydration.

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There are also many brands of sports gels available in the market. Ideally, you should get used to the specific brand of gel which you intend to use on race day to avoid any unforeseen tummy upset.

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Mental Game – Run with focus

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Standing at the start line and thinking about the 42.195km that lies ahead may leave you feeling extremely daunted. This is a feeling that even experienced marathoners may not be able to avoid.

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One way to overcome this is to break up the race into smaller segments, and aim to achieve “mini-goals” for each segment. This then forces (helps) you to focus on the process, instead of just the end goal which may seem like a bridge too far.

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Your “mini-goals” can be as simple as remembering to  take a small sip of hydration (drink to the point of thirst, of course!) at every water point. As you progress, these goals may be more performance-oriented, such as checking off each 5km within a specific split time.

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Another aspect of the mental game is to be prepared for any potential mishaps that may occur during the race so that you are not thrown off guard. If something unexpected happens, turn your focus to the things that are within your control.

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For example, there have been instances during my races where I had fumbled with my hydration bottles when grabbing them off the table and ended up dropping them. Instead of being disheartened, I focussed on getting hold of my hydration at the next water station.

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ONEathlete Ashley Liew and Evan Chee, and other Singaporean elite athletes at the start lines of SCSM 2017! Photo credits: RunONE

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Camaraderie – Run as one

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You may think of running as a team sport – ultimately, everyone racing on the course shares a common goal of finishing the race safely, and speedily. Just as how teammates in a sports team draw inspiration from one another, you can form impromptu running groups while running the race!

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During the 2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon, where I went on to set the Singapore half-marathon record, I was fortunate to have the company of fellow runners who were also gunning for the same finishing time. I managed to work with them, and we took turns to lead and break the headwind, not unlike a Tour de France race. This allowed us to perform better than if we had all been running our races individually. Our “team” members also changed as the race went on. As some runners got tired and dropped back, we also caught up with runners ahead who still had the legs under them and started running together as one.

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Such team dynamics can help you to achieve your goals, as well as others to meet theirs!

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With this, I wish you all the best as you undertake the biggest race on Singapore’s running calendar – remember to enjoy and savor every moment of it! 

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100PLUS Ambassador & 7-time SCMS Local Champion, Mok Ying Ren shared hydration tips with about 200 runners and joined them in their final preps (on 1 Dec, sat) for the Singapore Marathon. Photo credits: ONETHLETE

ST: Mastering your self during a run!

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 25 November 2018

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EDGAR THAM – Fatigue, boredom in training, mistakes, and the lack of progress are common challenges highlighted by runners of varying, and all, levels. These issues do not just pop up on race day, but they can also manifest in the training leading up to it. Research points to a few tricks that athletes can use to overcome these mental barriers.

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Be one with nature

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A recent study concluded that runners who ran with sunshine, trees and flower beds felt happier. Running with nature can help improve your mood, leaving you more excited and refreshed than before. To enjoy your next race to the fullest, take in the greenery of our garden city. For example, if you are running at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, look out for pretty or unique flowers, plants, and trees as you make your way to The Float @ Marina Bay.

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Training indoors, battling the rainy season or is the weather not working in your favor? Watching a video tour of a garden or public park while getting your workout in the gym can also give you a similar positivity boost!

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Sport & Performance Psychologist Edgar Tham, sharing with ONEathlete Banjamin Quek, on how he can hone his mental muscle/toughness ahead of the latter’s half-marathon at SCSM 2018. Photo credits: RunONE

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Psych up with music (and even video!)

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Not just about the latest trend, running with earbuds or headphones on can help you do better too. Researchers found that athletes who ran with their choice of entertainment, i.e., favorite music, had more positive attitudes and performance overall. Having considered the benefits, some may ask “what type of music should I listen to?” The answer lies in the tempo. Fast-paced music gets one pumped up and running faster, while slow-paced music relaxes. However, if, listening to music is not allowed during your race, grooving to your personal hits during your warm-up could also help get you in the right emotional state, and therefore help you get ready for your race. For some, the music might still be lingering in your head — use it to help you in your actual run!

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Running on a treadmill but not a big music junkie? Research has shown that streaming a show or movie can bring similar benefits too. The next time you are looking to achieve a new personal best and cover a longer distance while training, try setting up your playlist or your favorite show before you start! Caution: Be careful and remain fully alert when training on the treadmill. Safety first!

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Hone your mental muscle

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Training your mind helps train your body too! Research with world-class athletes points to mental toughness as pivotal to peak performance. Athletes who are calm, focused and confident are better prepared, and more likely, to overcome race challenges and mistakes.

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To train like a champion marathoner, have your own race plan and rehearse it both physically (through training) and mentally (by going through the race over and over again in your mind). It can help you approach the actual event with more poise and confidence. To design your own race plan, study the race route and consider how you will run and motivate yourself during the race. How should I start? When would I pick up my pace? What are some potential challenges I may face (e.g., uphill, fatigue) and how can I cope with them? Anticipate the times you may “hit the wall” and prepare yourself with possible workarounds (e.g., keep your mind on your running form, adjust your breathing). Explore and identify what works for you, and be prepared to charge ahead the next time the burn kicks in!

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IMG_3737 “It was a good reminder to reignite my passion for running. Edgar reminded me to enjoy the process rather than to just focus on results. I walked away with very useful tips, e.g. on how i can do a visualization exercise, and split the workouts into parts; prior to a tough workout.” Banjamin Quek, who will be running his half-marathon at SCSM 2018.  

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Find your running tribe

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Athletes with stronger support networks tackle stress and challenge better. Research also shows that the stress-support relationship works in two ways. One, we seek out others when stressed. Gather your own tribe – trusted people you can turn to for love and support. Share with them about the difficulties you face, and celebrate small wins too! Struggling during training or the actual race? Turn to your running buddy for some encouragement and support. Two, supporting others helps lower their stress levels and yours in return too! Keep your stress levels healthy by lending a helping hand to support your running buddy, particularly when the going gets tough. The next time you hit a plateau during training or need an extra boost during the race, lean on your family and friends or consult with a mental toughness coach for more support.

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Whether you are a professional athlete or weekend warrior, try out some of these tips to bring your running performance to another level! I hope these would come in handy as you run the SCSM 2018 on 9 December!

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Edgar K. Tham is Singapore’s pioneer Sport & Performance Psychologist, amongst many other diverse accolades. Edgar was the founding Head of the Sports Psychology Unit of the Singapore Sports Council in 1996. He was team consultant and traveling psychologist to numerous national teams preparing for major world games/championships, including the Olympics and World Championships. Edgar is the founder and chief sport & performance psychologist at http://www.sportpsychconsulting.com.  He is an associate lecturer in sport psychology at the Singapore University of Social Science, Edinburgh Napier University (UK), and University of Wollongong (AUS). He is the co-author of Mental Toughness Strategies of the World’s Greatest Athletes and In the Zone: The Mindset for Peak Performance in Sport.

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Marathoner Evan Chee’s Tour de Europe

21 Nov 2018 – While most of us have always imagined an ideal Europe road trip to be driving a caravan through the winding Alps and French countryside, or a shop(eat)-till-you-drop magical experience on the streets of London and Madrid, Evan is not like most of us.

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The 38-year old marathoner had always dreamed of racing a half marathon in Europe and the IAAF gold label, AIMS-certified Valencia Half-Marathon checked all the boxes. It was known to be a fast and flat course (world records were set here before), and the cooling conditions in late October meant the race’s schedule fitted perfectly into Evan’s overall preparation for Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 6 weeks later.

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Valencia Half-Marathon 2018

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Evan arrived in Valencia, also known as the city of running, after 24 hours of non-stop traveling and made it to one of the biggest race expos he has seen. The actual race kicked off at 9am on a cool Sunday morning. With temperatures hovering between 10 to 15 degrees, conditions couldn’t have been better along with the electrifying crowd support lined up along both sides of the race route and excellent race organization.

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In the end, Kenya’s Abraham Kiptum broke the Men’s Half-Marathon world record clocking 58:18 to take five seconds off the mark set by Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese in 2010. Evan would go on to clock 1:19 for a personal best and finishing in 94th place and 2nd Asian runner. While Evan had gone into the race with higher expectations, it was still a timely confidence booster after spending most of 2018 nursing a niggling leg injury which had hampered his training.

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‘THE’ Marathon

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2 weeks later, Evan would go on to run another epic European race, the Athens Classic Marathon, the birthplace of all modern-day Marathons. While it is an IAAF gold label race today, the race’s heritage and history stretch all the way back to 490BC. The Athens Marathon traces the same route that the legendary Greek messenger, Pheidippides, ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek’s victory over the Persians!

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Runners from around the world gather at Adidas Runbase in Athens

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As part of the pre-race lead-up, Evan had a rare opportunity to visit Adidas Runbase in Athens and meet like-minded Adidas Runners (AR) from all around the world (including Paris, London, Vienna, Dubai, Madrid, and Milan). Runbase is a 6-story facility catered for AR with running and all sorts of fitness sessions taking place almost daily!

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Group shot with Adidas Runners in front of the Acropolis

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Together, they would all participate in a shake-out sightseeing run organized by AR Athens to showcase the best of Athens sights and sounds, ending with a group shot taken in front of the Acropolis and a pasta party right after!

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Athens Classic Marathon 2018

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The Athens Classic Marathon counts as one of the most difficult major marathon race with a nearly 20km-long uphill climb, which dwarves the SCSM Sheares Bridge climb at the 37km mark. The course begins in the town of Marathon before passing by the tomb of Athenian soldiers, turning towards the city of Athens before finishing up at the Panathinaiko Stadium. The stadium is a landmark site for athletics competition in ancient times, and also where the 1896 and 2004 Olympics Marathon chose as its finishing point.

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xIn a fitting tribute to the race and area’s history, it has become a standard practice before every year’s race to carry the Marathon Flame, which is lit at the Tomb of the Battle of Marathon, to the finish point at the Stadium.

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Right from the start, Evan planned to maintain a comfortable long run pace as he tackled the seemingly endless uphills and slopes. After crossing the halfway mark in 1:30:30 as planned, Evan knew the race had only just begun with another 10km of slopes to go in what was proving to be a much more challenging route than SCSM. The Greek messenger, Pheidippides, couldn’t have been happier than Evan when he caught sight of the Stadium finish point, crossing the line in 3:00:50 with an average pace of 4:15′.

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Wrapping up his Europe ‘road trip’, Evan will like to thank everyone from AR Athens, particularly captain Deniz Dimaki, whose efforts helped make all this possible. It was a whirlwind 3 weeks in Europe but it turned out to be an out-of-this-world experience running ‘literally’ from Valencia to Madrid, Barcelona to Santorini before calling it a day in Athens.

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While his legs may feel like they’re running on empty (for the next couple days), but his heart is definitely full. Be sure to check in with Evan as he lines up for the biggest race on Singapore’s running calendar – the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon!

ST: Take a deep breath

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 18 Nov 2018.

#AskMok

  1. I understand the need to breathe into the diaphragm but my chest will feel a little compress and breathless meaning I have to take a deep breath into my chest to feel better. Any way to overcome this? – Jason
  2. Breathing – I can be running at zone two but why am I always feeling out of breath? – Anonymous

MOK YING REN – How should I breathe when I run? This is a question often posed to me at forums.

Our first breaths were taken in at birth and the act of breathing now comes naturally to us. Sometimes, we do not even realize it when we breathe although it becomes (painfully) obvious when we run and our speed appears to be limited by our breathing as demand for oxygen intake increases.

Breathe Like You Swim


Before embarking on my competitive running journey, I was heavily involved in swimming and triathlon for about 10 years.

For those who swim, you would know how important it is to regulate your breath properly in the water, lest you inhale a huge gulp of chlorinated water. Regardless of your swimming speed or stroke, you have to maintain a controlled and regular breathing pattern. Your breaths should follow the rhythm of your strokes as much as possible.

It is also important to take deep breaths when swimming. If you take short, shallow breaths, you will not be able to keep your face submerged underwater for long. But once you start taking deep, full breaths, swimming becomes a lot more comfortable.

The same regulated and deep breathing technique used in swimming should be employed in running.

What if you do not or are unable to swim? Fret not, there are some other strategies which you may try out to help you to breathe better.

Counting Steps


A strategy to regulate your breath when running is to consciously count your steps while running for each breath that you take. There is no science behind establishing what your breathing/running tempo should be. In all likelihood, you should be able to find your most comfortable tempo through a process of trial and error.

We naturally inhale longer than exhale –  check in with your own breathing right now as you read this article!

For your easy runs, you may start off with a tempo of 4 steps for inhalation, and 2 steps for exhalation. As you speed up, the inhale-exhale step ratio is reduced to 2:1, or even 1:1.

Being aware of your breathing rate also allows you to gauge the intensity that you are running at. If you are unable to catch your breath or hold a conversation during your easy runs, it is likely that you are running too fast! Slow down and regulate your breathing to a comfortable inhale-exhale step ratio.

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Mok Ying Ren recommends that you fill in your lungs adequately and naturally while running. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

Breathe Deeply

 

It is easy to misunderstand the phrase “breathing deeply” in the context of running.

To breathe deeply does not mean that you take in a huge amount of air and hold it in as if playing a game of “How long can you hold your breath for?”.

What it actually means that instead of taking small gasps of air, you should fill your lungs in, adequately and naturally. There should be a slight rise in your chest with each inhalation, but your abdomen should not bloat. This may be difficult to understand and execute, but if you follow the recommended inhalation-exhalation step ratio of 4:2 for your easy runs, you should be able to achieve nice, deep breaths.

Mouth or Nose?


The mouth and the nose are mere openings to the same space – your lungs. Regardless of how it enters, air will go through your windpipe and into your lungs. Essentially, there is no difference to your respiratory system, whether you inhale through your mouth or your nose.

You may, however, experience a physical difference depending on the weather climate. In cold and dry climates, it would be advisable to breathe through your nose as it moistens the air which you inhale. In contrast, if you breathe through your mouth, your throat will dry up quickly, and possibly inducing dry coughs.

Despite this, you may find it more natural to utilize your mouth for breathing when running at high intensities. This is because the mouth allows you to inhale much more quickly, due to its larger surface area. Do not fight this tendency to breathe through your mouth and let it occur naturally.

I personally inhale through my nose during easy runs, and through my mouth during faster runs.

The most crucial aspect of breathing is self-awareness. When you are in the “zone”, you will experience a harmony between your running steps and your breath, which will definitely make your runs more enjoyable.


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