(Pic credit: Ashley Liew)
Written by Kelvin Leong.
With the local running community eagerly awaiting his result, Singapore marathoner Ashley Liew kept faith in his ability and ran a personal best timing of 2hr 32min 12sec over 42km at the New Orleans Marathon to put himself into contention for a spot in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games. And all this he attributes to a certain iron lady whom he knows is proud of his achievements.
Soh Rui Yong clocked a 2hr 26min 1sec timing at the California International Marathon in December 2014 and has qualified to be one of two runners to represent Singapore at the 2015 SEA Games while Singapore athletics’ golden boy Mok Ying Ren, who is the defending champion of the SEA Games marathon event, has yet to clock a qualifying time this year.
Despite the uncertainty of whether he will be at the marquee event come June on home soil – Liew will not make the cut if Mok manages to run a better timing before the qualifying window officially closes at the end of March 2015 – Liew is still thankful for all that has happened over the course of the past few months.
He said: “It will be an immense goal to represent Singapore in front of family and friends and shoot for a medal. It is so important a target that I would be willing to take a full school term off from school to train full-time should I qualify which would delay graduation and interrupt continuous care of my patients. However, the bigger and more important goal in the longer term is qualifying for the 2020 Olympics.”
Despite his obvious talent for competitive running, the slender 56kg running machine we see now wasn’t always as fit during his school days when he tipped the scale at 80kg.
“I was overweight from Secondary School through National Service. My first school Co-Curricular Activity was canoeing and dragon boat at Junior College, which was one of the only sports that accepted students without prior sporting background.
“During the course of strenuous canoeing training, I found some joy in run training. Believing we had the sufficient endurance base, some of us signed up for our first marathon, the 2004 Singapore Marathon. I chugged to the finish in 4h29m34s. Despite the agony and challenges during the race, I was hooked.” added Liew.
While his passion for the sport was obvious, it took a chain of events back in 2008 that turned him from a budding potential to one of Singapore’s top marathoners.
He enthusiastically exclaimed: “My world was dramatically turned upside down when I met my first and current running coach a couple weeks after my 3h34m14s at the 2008 Singapore Marathon. Coach Rameshon Murugiah was hired by the Singapore Management University Track and Field Club at the time.”
“At that moment, I thought I was at the pinnacle of my short-term running career. I was wrong. Under his structured training and mental guidance, in less than one year, my marathon personal best went from 3h34m14s to 2h51m22s, finishing runner-up local at the 2009 Singapore Marathon.”
Liew who managed his personal best last month in the United States to put himself into contention, will now have to wait till the end of the qualifying window to know if he will be one of two marathoners gunning for SEA Games glory but the 28-year-old reckons holding up the Singapore flag in New Orleans will already go down in personal memory as one of the defining moments of his running journey.
“My proudest moment was being presented the Singapore flag after emerging runner-up at the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon on 25th January, after running a 2h32m12s personal best (beating my previous by 3m27s). It was not an individual moment but a shared experience with God, mother, coach, family, and close friends.”
And as if qualification is not enough of a motivation factor, Liew was quick to point out who he thinks of whenever he is pounding the gravel beneath his feet one step at a time.
He declared: “I have a small immediate family with just my father in Singapore. My mother passed away in 2010 and she has always been the biggest influence on my life. She was always a soft spoken but a staunch supporter of all my endeavours, supporting me at races as far away as the 2008 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Florida. I believe I have taken on a lot of her qualities since her passing, especially humility and a sense of quiet determination, so a big part of my running is in memory of her.”
While it is not certain if Liew will be donning the Singapore flag on his chest come June at the homecoming SEA Games, it is clear that the man will always pride himself as a true blue Singaporean who runs every race with the belief that he is running for the people he love, the country he honours and a personal determination to always, always give his best and nothing less.
8th Feb 2015