Name: Ashley Liew Wei Yen
Date of Birth: 17 December 1986 (29yrs)
Personal Best(s): 2:32:12 (Men Marathon, 2015 New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon 2015)
Career Highlight(s): 2h32m12s at New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon 2015, Local Champion at Singapore Marathon 2012, Represented Singapore at SEA Games 2013, Champion of Spinx Half Marathon 2013 (USA), 2nd-fastest all-time Singaporean for the Ironman triathlon distance (10h3m29s at Ironman Texas 2012)
Q) What are your hopes, dream and target this SEA Games?
To race to my fullest potential, laying all my heart and soul on home soil in front of family and friends, in a manner that would have made my mother very proud.
Q) How’s your preparation for the SEA Games?
It is progressing very well on the hills of Iten, Kenya (The interview was done during April, when he was still in Kenya). My group workout times have been steadily improving despite the high mileage and altitude. Come 7th June, Coach Rameshon and I believe I will be in the best shape possible.
Q) What are some of the biggest challenges in your sports career so far leading to SEA Games and your athletics career?
I am currently a Doctor of Chiropractic student at Sherman College of Chiropractic (South Carolina, USA). The rigours of these post-graduate studies are unlike anything I have experienced before. In addition to classes often from 8am to 4pm on weekdays and late-night studying, I am a chiropractic intern that checks patients’ spines in-between classes (adjusting them when necessary). On top of these responsibilities, I run twice daily and clock high weekly mileages often throughout the year. It has been a huge challenge to pursue my athletics career in the midst of this, but I have been able to excel in both by God’s grace.
Q) How did you specialise in your particular event? Why this event, what’s the attraction?
My athletics career is unique with its humble beginnings. I ran my first marathon in 2004 with the main goal of losing weight, suffering all the way to the finish in 4h29m34s. At my heaviest I weighed 80kg, compared to the 56kg I have been since 2011. Every subsequent year at the Singapore Marathon I would improve by several minutes. I did not do so for the competition, rather just for the self-fulfilment of completing 42.195km while trying to reduce my belly. All this changed upon meeting Coach Rameshon Murugiah (reigning national marathon record-holder) in December 2008. In less than a year, he brought my marathon time down from 3h34m14s in 2008 (outside top 100 Singaporeans) to 2h51m22s in 2009 (second Singaporean). That was the dramatic moment when we realized I had so much potential in this sport, as long as I had structure, direction, and self-belief. Fast forward to 2015’s New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon time of 2h32m12s, we know that my best years are still to come.
Q) Who is your coach, tell us more about him/her. Also a mention of your previous coaches.
Coach Rameshon Murugiah (reigning national marathon record-holder) has been my (first) coach, mentor, and friend since 2008. Despite my lack of athletic backgroun (I only started sports in Junior College), average marathon timing, and weight issues, he noticed my hardworking ethic on the inside. Since then, our partnership has yielded year-after-year of personal bests and milestones. Training per-se aside, he has imparted many values in my life like perseverance, humility, and integrity. Despite my studies in the USA, he has already flown over three times just to support me, taking time out of busy coaching schedule with his Flexifitness and school athletes. It takes someone special to do all this. I am blessed to know him.
Q) Do you take care of your nutrition and diet? Your opinion on supplements and food.
How you fuel your body is critical for the competitive athlete. While studying in the USA, I cook almost all my own meals to ensure high quality food with ideal proportions of macro- and micro-nutrients. Fortunately my palate is easily pleased so my diet is often simple. However, Coach Rameshon tells us that 20% of one’s diet does not need to be so strict, so occasionally I do indulge after a long run. I also personally feel that diet according to Western standards is slightly over-emphasized, having experienced the typical Kenyan runner’s diet. Granted that they have high quality complex carbohydrates in the form of their staple food ugali, but their diet tends to lack other nutrients. Yet, they remain the best long-distance runners in the world.
Q) Aside from athletics, what else interest you? You could say the other part of your life beyond athletics.
I am excited to graduate as a Doctor of Chiropractic towards the end of next year. I plan on associating with my chiropractor Dr Kelvin Ng to serve the Singaporean community, from babies to athletes to geriatrics. I am blessed to be able to ensure patients’ nervous systems are firing at optimum potential in an effective, holistic, non-invasive way. My health has personally benefitted so much from chiropractic care since 2010 so it is my calling to give back. For example, I have not sustained a single training injury and only fell sick once (more importantly I bounced back from that episode in two days drug-free). Athletics and healthcare aside, I love playing music in the form of singing, guitar, and piano to bring joy in others’ lives.
Q) How do you fit in your training/competing with your family and studies/work?
It boils down to genuinely loving what you do. I love both athletics and chiropractic, seeing them as a synergistic fit. This is why I do not mind the many daily unseen sacrifices that are involved. I know that it will all be worth it at the end of the day. However, life is all about balance. Striking that balance is easier said than done, but possible from my case as well as many other top athletes. To me, a life with all work and no play is a recipe for burnout and isolation. Thus, whatever limited time I have, I make the most out of it. When in the presence of good friends, family, or God, I stay focused on the present moment. When training, studying, or taking care of patients, I likewise stay focused on the present moment. I cut down on the distractions in-between that are of lesser priority, for example by not having a television.
Q) Share with the readers, some aspects of your training regime.
I typically run 13 times a week, which consists of speed workouts, a long run, and many easy runs. In addition, I do a strength and conditioning session once a week. There are countless hours and kilometres that need to put in, which any top marathoner would understand.
Q) What are your long term athletics goals?
To qualify for the 2020 Olympics Marathon in Tokyo, while continuing to be a mentor and inspiration to other athletes.
Q) What advice do you have for young aspiring athletes?
The Kenyans have a saying which is to “train hard, win easy”. There are no results that come overnight. The journey will be filled with not only ups but the occasional downs, so you need to have the patience and resilience to see it through. It takes a village to raise a top athlete so be grateful for all the souls that have gotten you to where you are. With faith and belief anything is possible, so do not let conventional wisdom or anyone tell you otherwise. My journey so far from 4h29m34s to 2h32m12s is testament to that. Last but not least, remain humble by running for something bigger than yourself.