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.
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 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.
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.
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.
07 JUL 2019 – 26,287 Runners, from 56 countries had gathered at Queensland, Australia’s coastal city for the 41st edition of the Gold Coast Marathon 2019! Having held the IAAF Gold Label since 2014, boasting of a generally flat course that has allowed about 60% of the participants to set a personal best (PB) amidst generally favourable weather conditions, the Gold Coast Marathon (#GCM19) is arguably one of the most popular race spots in the region.
Which goes to also mean that if you are in town, enjoying the waves at Surfer’s Paradise or feasting at Cavil Mall, you might just #run into a couple of runners whom you might be familiar with.
RunONE takes a moment with 20 such personalities who have inspired us during the race weekend!
In an enthralling men’s race, 800m and 1500m track specialist Lachlan Barber (00:29:58) put in a withering finish burst to claim his first Southern Cross University 10km Run (Men’s). He edged over Tim Vincent in the last 400m and won by five seconds. “I was very happy with my performance. I’ve never raced anything over 1500m, so yes, I was really stoked to get under 30 minutes in my first ever 10km,” said Barber.
Barber added that the conditions ‘weren’t ideal at the start line.’ He was referring to the very strong winds (and about 4-5km/h of headwind) and icy-cold rain shower that left everyone drenched when the skies open up just 2 minutes before the start of the 10km race at 6.30am.
Leanne Pompeani (00:33:00) won her second Southern Cross University 10km Run (Women’s), becoming only the second woman to win the race more than once in the event’s history. She had also represented Australia at the World Cross Country Championships in March and followed that up with a win in Canberra over 10km in April.
Looking back on the wet and cold conditions at the start, Leanne said, “A little bit unfortunate about the wind. It’s usually pretty good conditions here so I was kind of expecting that, but you just have to deal with whatever you get on race day.”
One of Asia’s most famous and humble ‘citizen runner’, Japanese Yuki Kawauchi, had achieved 2:09:18 (2017) and 2:09:01 (2016), being the only athlete to have his name twice in the Top 10 All Time Performances honors.
Be careful that it’s Zane and not his twin brother Jake when you approach him! The 30-year old New Zealander brothers had moved to Iten, Kenya to train and further their running careers. ONEathlete Ashley was acquainted with Zane in Kenya during the former’s training stint in 2015.
Zane was actually selected to represent New Zealand in the Commonwealth Games Marathon Male event, but had to drop out due to a groin injury. About 15 months later, he is back in the game at #GCM19 !
The marathon debutant placed third in 2:08:19. He was very consistent throughout the race, staying in distance with the lead pack. He gives us a very detailed breakdown, “I was pretty conservative at the start. We knew the wind would be tough and it was but I kept the pacemakers in check by making sure the pace did not exceed 3:03min/km at the beginning.”
It was also an extra special moment for Zane as he had also set a new New Zealand record, bettering the previous mark set by his brother – Jake’s 02:08:26 set at Lake Biwa in 2018. It was no wonder then, that Zane seemed to be in high spirits at the finishing line – perhaps even ready for another run – as he was seen obliging quite a number of media interviews, including RunONE.
What’s even better was the sportsmanship he demonstrated, describing his race rivalry with great class and giving Shitara credit where due. “I think Yuta, the Japanese (runner), a world class athlete who played the game and played it smart. He expected to win and came through just when we were beginning to die. We had nothing left to go with him.”
Lagat, a Kenyan-American, is a five-time Olympian, having competed in the 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 games. He is also a thirteen-time medalist in World Championships and Olympics including five gold medals.
The Dual world champion over 1500m and 5000m on the track improved his marathon pb to 2:12:10 and finished seventh. The cool dude was seen focusing on recovery and getting a cold compression (as above), and enjoying a little muffin on one hand (while probably catching up on race updates on the other.)!
Do also check out his Instagram to spot his ‘deeply invested and impressive’ drink bottles for the #GCM19!
The first runner-up in 2018, Sinead Diver (01:09:46), beat 2-time champion, Sara Hall (01:1159) in the ASICS Women’s half-marathon race. This was also her first win, and fifth fastest performance in the race’s history. The 42-year-old from South Yarra, Melbourne was too strong for her rivals over the closing 5km. The Australians also had a clean podium sweep by claiming all top three positions in this race!
What was also envious to watch, was the level of sportsmanship that the champ exhibited. She said, “To race against Ellie and Sara and Lisa, it was such a tough race and anyone of us could’ve taken it out. It (just happened to be) my day today, so I was just lucky I think.” She has also qualified to represent Australia in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Marathon event.
The Glen Iris, Melbourne native, Jack Rayner won his second ASICS Gold Coast Half-marathon race (Men’s). The 23-year-old with a personal best of 01:01:01 set in Oct 2018 at Cardiff, crossed the line in 1:02:30, bettering his winning time from last year (1:03:12).
The defending champion came away with the win after a good tussle with Japanese runners Yuki Sato (01:02:36, six seconds outside his personal best set in May 2019) and Yuma Hattori (01:02:39), making his winning break 1km before the finish. Japanese runners filled places second through to eighth in the men’s race.
Rayner was asked about his competitors, and he replied in the vein of good old sportsmanship. “I didn’t quite know what to expect going into it. There was a really strong field of Japanese this year. I had a race there (Japan) at the start of this year so I knew how they ran.”
Rayner will be meeting the Japanese again very soon, as he has also qualified to represent Australia in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Marathon event.
Yuta Shitara. He is THE second fastest Japanese marathon runner in Japanese history. But now, with the win at the the IAAF Gold Label race in 2:07:50, Yuta has also laid claim to being the fastest runner in Gold Coast Marathon history! The previous record was set by Kenyan Kenneth Mungara (2:08:42) who won the race in 2018.
It was the eighth win by Japanese men in the event’s 41-year history. Yuta added “My training was really good. I think that the race really showed the quality of my training. It really brought out my performance today,” spoken by someone who clearly believes in the process!
This feat was despite a very visibly bloodied white vest, from what looks like a terrible case of chest fissures/abrasions. But without a single look of pain on his face and fully focused on the race ahead of him! “I didn’t have any race plan. I just wanted to go in and run the race that happened,” he says.
The 27-year-old champion who mostly carries a neutral expression, had an exciting duel with Kenyan, Barnabus Kiptum and New Zealander, Zane Robertson over the final 12km before making his final move in the last 2km. Shitara took home $20,000 in victory prize money and an additional $10,000 time bonus for his record-breaking effort.
With the likeliness of a K-pop star, a friendly and wide smile greets you from across the room, even though you are at least four meters apart. It turns out to be Shin Kimura, a rising marathon star from Honda Running Club in Tokyo, Japan.
He had spent a training stint in Boulder, Colorado to prepare for this marathon. Nike athletes, Shin Kimura and Bernard Lagat, took turns to pace each other and the former finished just 2 secs behind the latter at 02:12:12. Keep your eyes peeled for this star’s growth!
While Kenyan Rodah Jepkorir held off a strong finish from Milly Clark to win the Women’s Gold Coast Marathon Title, it was the latter who was received by the home crowd with a great loud roar! The Tasmanian sweetheart lost the lead at the 30km mark, but kept her rhythm and finished in 2:28:08 to claim the runner-up spot.
Despite being about two minutes and five seconds behind the Kenyan at the 30km mark, she finished just 12 secs behind the winner. She was clearly giving it all to catch up and edge in to try win the race!
The crowd probably helped too, she said as she reflected. “I had a lot of fun. There wasn’t a moment that I wasn’t loving it. I am just really stoked that I had the crowd and everyone around me cheering. You put in all the hard work in training and this is your prize. Instead of running alone and slugging it out on the roads, you can use the crowd. It gives you that extra burst.”
Clark had set off to do all that she wanted. She enjoyed the race. She recorded a personal best, lower than the Tokyo Olympics qualifier (2:29:30). She finished on the podium. The veteran at Gold Coast Marathon weekend, had won the Half-marathon in 2014, and second for 10km in 2013.
20th overall and South East Asia’s fastest in the Half-marathon Category, Agus Prayogo (01:06:27) broke Indonesia’s National Record to rewrite his own half marathon national record of 1:07:05, which he set at the Singapore Marathon in 2009.
The father and military personnel may seem like a young teenage man. But probably has collected more accolades than his age count. Enuf said, wait up for the SEA Games 2019 to see him shine!
Meanwhile, in the full marathon, Malaysian, Muhaizar Mohamad, finished in 35th place after recording 02:26:42. However, it was 15 secs slower than his personal best, 02:26:27 set at the 45th Berlin Marathon.
Muhaizar had became the first Malaysian to win a SEA Games medal in the marathon, after bagging a bronze in the 2017 Kuala Lumpur edition. His team mate Leo, finished fourth in the same race. The athlete in his early 30s, is now focusing on the SEA Games 2019 in Manila.
29th overall and South East Asia’s second fastest in the Half-marathon Category – beating Singapore’s Half-marathon National Record Holder, Soh Rui Yong – was a 29 year old, young lad named Prabudass Krishnan, finishing at 01:07:29.
The feat saw the Royal Malaysian Navy member erase the 15-year-old Malaysian National Record. He has been training under Coach JP, who had also helped Malaysian National Marathoner Leo set a new Marathon National Record, earlier this year.
Despite such a remarkable achievement, Prabu greets you a with a very unassuming and humble smile in the elite athletes room. Prabu is gunning to win the 5,000m Gold Medal at the SEA Games 2019. He had previously won the Silver Medal in 2017.
Burton He had won the Singapore Marathon 2018’s Half-marathon category in 01:20:11. But no fanfare, nothing pompous. The 29 year old, IT student in SIM University has become a regular at the podiums.
The relatively low profile athlete, was in Gold Coast with his Track Star Athletics team mates, ran his race, and left. He would have ‘escaped your eyes’ if you had blinked. He ran overall 53rd and emerged as the fastest Singaporean in the 10km Category.
Another Track Star Athletics athlete making his mark as the fastest Singaporean at the Gold Coast Marathon was Melvin Wong.
Melvin paced the race with his team mate Iskandar Mohamed and finished overall 69th in 02:37:28. The father of two, manages work, fatherhood and runs his life in great style! His team mate, Iskandar (who was also the runner-up at Singapore Marathon 2019) finished 92nd overall, at 02:42:36. Great camaraderie and working together as ONE to achieve goals are always worth mentioning!
We spotted him and congratulated on his overall 72nd position and emerging as the second fastest Singaporean in the Half-marathon category! Shohib Marican (01:13:14) was pleasantly surprised of course.
The ActiveSG athlete who is coached by Steven Quek, was initially filled with doubts and anxiety about his race. With a renewed mindset, he willed to go hard, focused on the pack ahead and finished with a personal best timing, no less. Go hard or go home, indeed!
Its always encouraging for those in the running circuit to see young athletes push the barriers, and achieve greater excellence!
Speaking of young, the Master’s runner, Ansgar Cheng is more than just young at heart. He emerged 2nd overall in the marathon category, for Master’s Male with a personal best timing of 02:54:16.
The father of two teenage daughters, and dentist in his early 50s, is also awaiting ratification by Singapore Athletics for a new national record of his age group.
Among one of the core members of the Kampong Runners, Ansgar and his wife Moonlake Lee are an affable couple who makes the effort to connect with individuals from the various running groups. That in a sense, kinda depicts the essence of sports and affirms the spirit of the running community!
The newly minted ONEathlete, Giebert Foo ran his first overseas marathon. He emerged 104th overall with a personal best of 02:44:15, 45 secs below his personal best that he had set after winning 3rd at Singapore Marathon 2018.
The civil servant had just completed his 9-month long stay-in training course recently. With the help of his partner, Esther (who was on wheels), Giebert paced his long runs and chased his training mileage over the weekends. On weekdays, he would also try to squeeze in some track tempo and intervals in the evening. Besides sticking to the discipline and controlling his diet, the 27 year old also read motivational quotes from Facebook page “Sweat Elite” to prepare for the race.
But during the race itself, Giebert remembered the prayers and encouragement of loved ones, absorbed the energy of the renowned Gold Coast crowd, and “High-fived” the kids along the way keep up the energy to the finish line. Crossing the line below his target, he said, “It is like a dream come true and has made me realise that i can go further in this marathon journey. I’m thankful for the support of the ONEathlete team which had made this PB a wonderful ONE!”
19. ashley liew
Running his 6th Gold Coast Marathon, and 33rd marathon since 2004, was ONEathlete Ashley Liew.
The 32 year old – with a personal best of 02:32:12 (2015) – believed in the process and prepared like it was his first. Along the way, Ashley had to balance six-day work week at Family Health Chiropractic Clinic while training twice daily. His peak weekly mileage of 160km, not to mention solo 30+km long runs and treadmill speed workouts, amidst intensive wedding preparation, proves that Ashley was determined to make it work.
Spotted with bloodied socks from a burst blister, Ashley said “I’m grateful to still have the body responding well towards the end which was a positive difference from my last 3 marathons.” Finishing overall 175th in 02:51:42, Ashley was pleased to achieve his season best.
20. bonza, the mascot
He ain’t a frog tho he spots a green sleek body! Bonza is a bearded dragon, the mascot for the Gold Coast Marathon. He charmingly convinces that he loves to run, just like all his other bearded dragon friends. As a young lad, Bonza had run at Burleigh Head National Park,
Typically during a morning training run at Miami Beach, he tells us, “I was inspired by thousands from all over the world running up and down my beautiful coastline and thought ‘you little rippers!”.
Instead of hibernating in cooler months like July, Bonza decided that he wanted to be part of the good times, and for this one-of-a-kind race. He was determined to become the first bearded dragon to run at the Gold Coast Marathon, and took a break from chilling with his surfing buddies at Surfers’ Paradise to start training. “I’ve been clocking up plenty of kilo meters on the beautiful beachfront in perfect conditions along the marathon route.”
The 41 year old, is stoked that the race date for 2020 is scheduled to be on 4-5 July, and has already set his goals for the 42nd Gold Coast Marathon race! In good old gold coast fashion, he waves and high-fives to say, “See ya nex july mate!”
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
About two million years ago homo sapiens evolved long legs and short toes to run for survival. Since then, Man has progressed from hunter-gatherers chasing food to running down competition but the race against time, for time, continues. In this time immemorial cycle of life, the young chases the old, the hunter becomes the hunted. Time is the enemy of all. Does one choose to rage against the dying of the light or fill the unforgiving minute with its worth of run?
(Photo Credits: ONEathlete)
Mok Ying Ren is 29 years old. The creases on his face wink in agreement when Mok smilingly bemoans “that the party doesn’t last forever and one day the music will have to stop.”
Once Mok was performing overnight duties at the hospital. There was a patient who got really excited knowing she was going to be stitched up by the national marathoner because “now I’ve got your autograph for life”. By all accounts time has also left its indelible mark on us all. In medicine as in running, it is always a race against time. Mok knows it only too well.
The enormity of the mission behind Mok’s medical profession has lent a great gravity and awareness of the fragilities of life and the human body. After spending a large part of his earlier running career overcoming personal injuries and now dedicating himself to the wounds of others, Mok quietly accepts when his legs take longer to recover, and his breathing more laboured as his heart and lungs strain to compensate. Men at 30 learn to close softly, doors they know won’t be opening again.
Professional running has been compared by some to poetry in motion. Gliding legs caressing the pavement like a carefree antelope, although not even the fastest or most graceful of them has been known to escape the endless pursuit of time. The younger Mok admittedly had an immolating passion and fury raged in his belly, which did not play well to the strengths of a sport where the one who wins is often the last to slow down.
Today, Mok can hold his own among some of the region’s best marathoners, and turn up the heat with a burst of speed or join a breakaway. The feisty runner is hardly one to expect mercy from after the gun goes off. But he always delivers respect. Respect your opponent and the distance. Respect your body. Respect the clock.
How much fire still burns within him? No one, including Mok himself, knows how his SEA Games bid will end. “You have to be absolutely committed, and hungry,” he said. “At the same time, I don’t tell myself that I must win this race or break that record.”
For the doctor-athlete straddled between medical responsibilities and athletic pursuit, Mok’s priorities were clear – his patients. “Their lives and well-being are my responsibility, and I owe it to them and their families that they receive complete focus and attention. When I was put in situations where I had to choose between my training and my patients, I was convicted to prioritize the latter. I guess then, training was compromised, but I gave the best of my ability.”
(photo credits: Ming Ham)
Like medicine, athletics is a lifelong apprenticeship where lessons are passed from one generation to the next. Through mistakes made and guidance shared, the baton is passed as the young learn what they can and the wise imparts what they have.
Mok knows his success is not his alone and he is grateful to friends, family and coaches who have stood by him throughout all these years, as well as the continuing support of partners and sponsors like 100PLUS and New Balance.
At the 29th SEA Games in KL, Mok will be trying to beat the clock but he is also racing the era. Champions don’t give up easily, not even against time. Coach Rameshon set the standing national marathon record of 2:24:22 at the 1995 SEA Games. Then, he was 31 years old.