Soaking the Sunshine at the Coast!

5 AUG 2019 – One can easily fly into the Brisbane Airport, and take a Con-x-ion shuttle service (costing about AUD$80 for a round trip) to the Mooloolaba Beach area at Sunshine Coast. The 90-mins shuttle ride will also be a scenic and comfortable one in the cool temperatures in August.

Sunshine Coast is a peri-urban area and the third most populated area in the Australian state of Queensland. Located north of the state capital Brisbane, on the Pacific Ocean coastline, its urban area spans approximately 60 km of coastline. The city is also home to the IAAF Bronze Label Sunshine Coast Marathon.

ONEathlete Mok Ying Ren and Evan Chee, together with other prolific Singaporean athletes had gathered in this slightly less-known city. It was not Mok’s first time in the city as he had visited the notable educational institutes at Sunshine Coast in 2018, such as the University of Sunshine Coast (USC) where some Team Singapore athletes go for a training stint.

Mok Ying Ren at USC in April 2018

But this time round, Mok was able to wake up and head out casually for a short jog along the Mooloolaba Beach. Just another typical morning, but Mok was able to see lots of people walking their dogs and playing around the beach with the warm sunshine amidst the cool sea Breeze. Ideal for a beach gateway, away from the buzz of a city life.

With a pretty straight forward race pack collection, and a homely setup with booths to sell race merchadises and tee-shirts, the athletes were all geared for the race (next) day on Sunday, 4 August 2019.

Sunshine Coast Marathon

With a start time of 6am, and a sunrise at 6:30am, it pretty much ensured a good cool weather of about 15-16 degrees at the start, eventually rising up to about 20 degrees towards the end. 

Although the event focuses on the half-marathon event, there were about a total of 588 full marathon runners, with good pacing support with pacers from 3hours to 4hours timing (with a 15mins interval each). The Australians were vying for the Australian Championship.

For Mok Ying Ren, as training was disrupted by a 2 weeks flu episode close to the race, on top of the very tight schedule in medical residency, he decided to start conservatively and aimed to complete the marathon in one piece rather than blow up and have to walk the remaining way. “I decided to start with the 3hour 15mins pacer and it was a small group with only 5 runners.” The pacer was clearly a seasoned and well liked runner in the local community, as he was seen cheered on by both fellow runners and spectators. In the same group, Mok also met (for the first time) another Singaporean, Yep Min, incidentally when the pacer was getting to know his small group.

Mok Ying Ren with fellow Singaporean runner in his group, Yep Min.

Mok describes the 3 loops course, as one with a couple of undulating hills, but overall, pretty flat. “We started on the 3 loop course with our pace right on target. The first loop was a 21.1km loop together with the half marathon runners, thus guaranteeing good company and ambience while the second 2 loops were 2 loops of about 10.5km to complete the 42.195km course.”

Describing his mood during the race, Mok said that, “I went through the first loop feeling fortunately comfortable because just the day before, I felt really smashed during my morning jog and thus was rather worried.” The good thing about running overseas is that the cool weather and nice sunshine that really gets the spectators out of their houses along the way to cheer the runners on throughout the race.

After the second loop, Mok was actually expecting to hit the wall sooner or later. “Just like what we all do in a marathon, we keep our energy expenditure to the minimum and focused on just keeping pace with the pacer.” But going through 30km and his body holding up well, it gave him more confidence to complete the marathon.

As he entered the last 10km loop, he experienced the fatigue setting in. His thigh muscles were tightening and cramping up. “I just wanted to hold on to the pace group as long as I could.” At this point, the group had dwindled down to 3, Mok Ying Ren, Yep Min, and another Australian. But the fatigue was rather overwhelming for Mok, in the final 2km of the race, and he dropped back from the group. “I was thankful to have finished the marathon and also enjoyed the experience thoroughly,” Mok recalls in his usual positive vibe.

ONEathlete(s) Evan Chee and Mok Ying Ren post race

For Evan Chee, who had a personal best of 2:38:58 from the London Marathon in April 2019, he was vying for this last opportunity to qualify for the SEA Games 2019 as the window closed mid-august.

However, he had to miss or stop at a number of the elite water stations (note: the stations were a first time for the race organizers) and felt that he was not able to give his best performance. He is now ranked 6th overall in Singapore based on his personal best timing, and will be preparing his lead up to the Singapore Marathon instead.

Great Beach Drive

The next day, the team of Singaporean runners headed for the great beach drive 4WD tours. This eight-hour, family friendly tour travels more than 70km of iconic beaches with the vehicles travelling right on the sand, so you can soak in the scenery and wildlife, such as dolphins, manta rays, turtles, soldier crabs, birdlife, birds of prey and whales (whale season is June-October). “It was an interesting experience driving down the beach as if it was just a road,” Mok summarized about his experience.

A pristine stretch of white sand with stunning headland views all the way from Noosa to Double Island Point

The tour boasts of a few key stopovers. Namely, Red Canyon, Great Sandy National Park, Lighthouse, Coloured Sands, Honeymoon Bay and Rainforest:

Red Canyon – Red and yellow sands form a unique canyon in the sand dunes where you will enjoy magnificent views over Teewah Beach.

Great Sandy National Park – A scenic and relaxing picnic ground where you might be visited by camera friendly Lace Monitors (Goannas).

Lighthouse – Double Island Point Lighthouse offers breathtaking 360-degree views across the Pacific Ocean and scenic surrounds of the Great Sandy National Park. It is here once can often spot pods of dolphins, turtles, sharks, manta rays and the majestic Humpback Whales (season is June-October).

Coloured Sands – This world famous attraction has more than 40 different shades of colour. The tour includes a demonstration of the traditional techniques used by the Aboriginal people (with respect to the Gubbi Gubbi people) to create artwork and decorate boomerangs

Honeymoon Bay – This area boasts a saltwater lagoon with some of the most scenic landscapes in Australia. One can swim in the protected waters of the bay, or body surf on the longest right hand breaks in Australia all year round. Or, like Mok, you can catch up on your work and podcasts!

Mok also recalled that the tour guides were thoughtful to personalize the trip, and make things really easy for the “tourists”. They had set up the tents for lunch and everything was catered for including wine and beer for their picnic lunch, against the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Fraser Island.

Race Weekend – 5 Things That London Marathon and Income Eco Run 2019 Share In Common

28 APRIL 2019 – For runners and running enthusiasts both in Singapore, and around the world, this weekend has been one that they have been anticipating and packed with exciting races. Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge ran the second fastest marathon in history to win the Virgin Money’s London Marathon for a fourth time while Britain’s Mo Farah finished fifth. And just a mere 12 hours before that, NTUC Income’s Eco Run was on, against the scenic Singapore skyline backdrop! We bring to you, interesting observations on the 5 things these 2 races have in common!

1. decked in New Balance

This was the starkest commonality! As the official sponsor of both races, New Balance had dressed up the pacers in London’s NB Runner’s World Pace Team, as well as Singapore’s Running Department!

It’s also a bonus, when we meet this New Balance couple here in Singapore! New Balance Singapore Ambassador, Mok Ying Ren & his wife, Belinda.

2. values-driven title sponsors’

Virgin Money: “When it comes to banking, you want an honest deal with no surprises. So we’ll always tell you the things you really need to know up front.”

NTUC Income: “We are a co-operative where, quite simply, people come before profits. Our values set us apart from other insurance companies. They are what make us different. “

it is pretty obvious that they stand for doing business right, and not for profiteering.

3. IN SUPPORT OF a social cause

Being the official fundraising website for the Marathon, Virgin Money Giving has helped thousands of events and charities, big and small, throughout the UK raise hundreds of millions of pounds. This year, the London Marathon also broke the $1 billion mark in donations raised! And because it’s 100 per cent not-for-profit, an extra £9.5 million has reached charities because fundraisers used virginmoneygiving.com instead of a site with higher fees. (Source: London Marathon). In yet another first, London Marathon racers will be drinking from edible pods made of seaweed extracts instead of a plastic water bottle, and is part of the organisers’ initiative to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced and its waste foot-print!

Locally, the 9th edition of NTUC Income Eco Run 2019 kicks off its 3rd year of ‘zero waste running’ with the introduction of its first Zero Waste 5km race category. More than 9,000 runners took to the street on this surprisingly cool Sunday morning in support of eco-conservation and green causes, with innovative measures such as re-usable cups for runners to refill at hydration stations during the race.

A fish sculpture at the Income Eco Run race village made up of plastic bottles

4. SPOT THE british

Alright, we were kidding about this! But in a comedic twist it isn’t too far off either!

The 2019 Virgin Active London Marathon was shaping up to be one of the most hotly anticipated spring race as many looked forward to another masterful performance by reining world record holder Eluid Kipchoge who remains unbeaten in all but 1 marathon in his career. His rivalry with 4-time Olympic medallist & one of Britain’s most accomplished runners, Sir Mo Farah, who has recently stepped up to the marathon distance and was looking to take victory on home soil, also added another dimension to the competition amongst the deep elite field assembled for a showdown. It was intense!

Back here in Singapore, it was a lot more light hearted! The Income Eco Run saw, amongst the 9,000 runners, a prolific author, broadcaster, journalist, and in his words – ‘1st runner-up in the 44 to 45 years old Men-who-don’t-puke-and-run 5km category’, Neil Humphreys. The Englishman quipped that he was very proud of himself for racing his heart out while his guts stayed intact, as he posed gamely for the photos!

Light-hearted, witty and fast-talking, best-selling author Neil Humphreys

5. Spot a ONEathlete!

ONEathlete Evan Chee (third from left, in black) racing at the 2019 London Marathon

Against the backdrop of intense speculation and spectatorship on the elite field, ONEathlete Evan Chee also waged his own race against the clock on the streets of London, in an attempt to lower his personal best (2:41:01) attained just 5 weeks ago at the 2019 Seoul Marathon.

Evan had felt that preparations had gone smooth and well since the beginning of the year, and hoped to ride on his earlier marathon fitness preparing for Seoul by straddling a short training cycle leading into London. He knew this was a risky move that could increase his risk of injury but also potentially pay off big dividends as he seeks a qualifying performance to represent Singapore at the 2019 SEA Games in December.

Evan’s bid paid off as he dipped under the 2 hour 40 minute mark to finish in 2:38:58 (unofficial), clocking a new personal best as well as what is understood to be the third fastest Singaporean Men’s Marathon finish in 2019, thus far. Evan’s sister and national marathoner, Yvonne Chee, also finished the race in 3:03:13 (unofficial). Congratulations to the Chee siblings, Evan and Yvonne!

ONEathlete Evan Chee having a post-race victorious moment along the streets of London!

Back in Singapore, running his first race as an ONEathlete at the 2019 Income Eco Run is marathoner Giebert Foo. In the half-marathon category, Giebert finished in 1:21:35 to clinch the Union Men’s Open Champion with a strong performance and officially kick off his 2019 racing season.

The veteran runner had started running from the track, representing his alma mater NYP in shorter distances such as the 1,500m before moving up to the marathon in recent years. At last year’s Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, Giebert rounded up the podium in the Local Men’s category with a 3rd-place finish in a time of 2 hours 54 minutes.

Giebert’s partner, Esther Khoo, also bagged a respectable performance with a 4th place finish in the Union Women’s Open 10km race.

ONEathlete Giebert Foo (right) with his partner and fellow prize winner, Esther Khoo (left)
See you at the next race!
*Source information and photos of London Marathon from virginmoneylondonmarathon.com  

(Editor’s note – Evan’s results at the London Marathon is not the second, but third, fastest Singaporean Men’s timing in 2019 thus far. We apologise for the error, and the article has been amended as such)

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Breaking 3s & PBs @ Seoul Marathon 2019

17 March 2019 – Despite earlier scares over a dense haze that had descended upon Seoul and cast race prospects in shrouds, ONEathlete Evan Chee and Ashley Liew, and many other Singaporean runners assembled with great hopes for their season-opening race.

Singaporeans assembled in Seoul

First held in 1931, Seoul Marathon is the second oldest in the world after Boston Marathon. The IAAF gold label race is famous for its flat and fast course, with a men’s course record of 2:05:13 set by 4-time winner at this event, Wilson Loyanae of Kenya. Typically held in mid March, the cooling starting conditions of about 4 degrees and 8am start time makes it one of the preferred races for runners looking to lower their personal bests.

At this year’s Dong-A Ilbo Seoul International Marathon, Kenya Men and Women dominated as Thomas Kiplagat RONO won the men’s race in 2:05:56 under hazy conditions. While temperatures were near freezing at the start (- 1 degrees Celsius), the cloudless skies and light winds made for otherwise near-perfect conditions to race in.

Photo from Seoul Marathon 2019 English Page

Evan Chee, who finished 4th at the 2018 Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, crossed the line in 2:41:01 – a new personal best and M35 category Marathon Record (pending Singapore Athletics’ ratification) – while Ashley succumbed to leg fatigue to finish in 3:08:57. The latter eventually managed to join in with the rest at the finish to celebrate his fellow ONEathlete’s achievement.

“I’m very happy. It was a fast course and I was fortunate to have good company along the way. Though the haze was a bit annoying, I am pleased with my performance this early in the season and hope to build on this over the next few months” Evan said, adding that he hoped to qualify for the 2019 SEA Games marathon which would be held in Philippines in November. The 38-year old Men’s veteran marathoner was recently nominated to the Singapore National Team (TeamSG) along with his marathoner sister, Yvonne Elizabeth Chee.

The seasoned marathoner usually competes in 3 – 4 marathons a year. However, with a relatively short 13 weeks between SCSM and Seoul Marathon, Evan incorporated longer tempo trainings and slightly less mileage. This regular review of training approach based on race results (and experience) has been part of Evan’s repertoire ever since he started running competitively. While it is nearly impossible to get everything perfect at your first attempt, he believes that every race can be seen as an experiment of one that we can learn from and improve. The Adidas Ambassador is currently training under Coach Steven Quek.

Also spotted in Seoul: A Team of Singapore Shufflers displaying their racing prowess with a number of them finishing close to the 2 hour 45min mark. Jason Tan who narrowly missed his sub-3 hour timing at SCSM2018 just couple months ago, crossed the line in 2:45:05. His team mate, and young talent Daniel Leow, followed closely behind with a 2:45:43 finish. Other runners prolific in the Singapore running circuit, Andy Neo and Hiroto Ogawa finished in 2:49:01 and 2:50:30 respectively. RunONE’s in-house editor, Lester Tan, or more commonly known by his handle @runningtan, finished with a new personal best of 2:57:16 to join the sub-3 club.

Red dot in Seoul

But the icing on the cake for Singapore was the new Marathon National Marathon Record as national marathoner Soh Rui Yong finished in 2:23:42. “It took a few years of work and I finally found the race and opportunity to do it, so I’m definitely happy with that,” Soh told The Straits Times.

The previous record was set by Murugaiah Rameshon at the 1995 SEA Games which was held at Chiangmai, Thailand. (Soh had previously claimed, on his website, to have broken the 1995 record, with his Chicago Marathon 2016 timing of 2:24:55.)

Photo from Pocari Singapore Facebook

As a IAAF gold label race, Seoul Marathon had delivered on expectations. Although the pre-race registration process was slightly challenging for international runners due to language barriers, the race was well organised, with adequately spaced drink stations serving Pocari and water, as well as full road blockage to ensure the IAAF Gold Label standards were upheld.

More than 37,000 took part in the 2019 edition of the race which winds through the streets of Seoul before ending in the Seoul Olympic stadium that played host to the games during the 1988 Summer Olympics.

ONE would also like to express its gratitude to The Singapore Embassy in Seoul, Korea and Ambassador Yip for hosting the ONEathlete team earlier this week.

[For inspiring stories related to running and sports, as well as discounts to local races, subscribe to ‘RunONE’ by adding +6588347638 to your Whatsapp contacts. Then send us the words, “Run With Me.”]