Soh clocks PB in 5,000m

Defending marathon champ Soh continues SEA Games preparation with new personal best in 5,000m

Last weekend, I dropped down from my speciality distance of 42.195km on the road to the 5,000m on the track at the Portland Track Festival, as part of my preparation for the 2017 South-east Asia (SEA) Games in August.

This is a change in gear not often seen among marathoners, who usually stick to 10,000m or half marathons as tune-up races.

However, I decided to spice things up by not just racing in a 5,000m, but also shooting for my fastest time ever and a national record.

Before last weekend, my personal best stood at 14min 58.77sec, while the national record, set in 2011, was 14:51.09.

When discussing training seven weeks ago with a friend of mine, coach Ben Rosario, I floated the idea of racing on the track during my build-up to the SEA Games, to touch on my speed and provide my body with a different stimulus after spending pretty much the whole of 2016 on marathon training.

He ag­reed with my plan, but suggested running a 10,000m as he felt that my preparation for the marathon would have me better prepared for a longer race.

I agreed with his logic, but there was one issue: I already own the 10,000m national record.

I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone, and go for a new challenge.

The 5,000m would be a solid speed test, to see how fast I could race the event off marathon training.

Even though it had been more than two years since I last broke the 15-minute barrier in the 5,000m, I was optimistic of running a personal best and the national record at the Portland Track Festival, because of how I was feeling during my workouts leading up to it.

I did, however, need to run a near-perfect race in good conditions.

Unfortunately for the athletes competing on Saturday evening, we were hit with a torrential downpour right before our events - unusual for a Portland summer. I guess climate change is a thing.

The rainstorm resulted in a logistical change that meant that there would be 44 guys listed at the start - hardly an ideal situation.

I made it a point to get out fast when the gun went off, but due to the sheer number of people who did the same, I still got trapped in lane three for the first 200m.

I settled into about 15th place after the first lap of 400m and reeled off laps of 71/72sec, or at 14:48-to-15min pace.

Some guys had gone off way too fast, which meant I had to make small surges every now and then to go around people, but I was surprised at how good I was feeling despite going a lot faster than my marathon pace.

I knew that as long as I kept at that pace, I could run a fast last lap to break my personal best and seriously challenge the Singapore record.

I moved up gradually, first into the top 12, then the top 10, then eight, then seven.

I reeled off two more laps of 71/72sec, but then entering the final four laps of the race, the early exertions of jockeying with the pack started to creep in, and I ran three 73sec laps (at 15:12 pace) in a row.

Then I rallied to close the final lap in 67sec and stop the clock at 14:55.91, in 6th place, which meant a new personal best by almost three seconds.

The outcome was bittersweet.

On one hand, I was happy with a new personal best.

On the other, I was left wondering what could have been if I had caught just slightly better conditions - be it the weather or number of people in my race.

With a successful speed test executed, coach Ben and I headed out for Vietnamese beef pho (noodles) to celebrate my new personal best and discuss the next step we would be taking, with the Hamburg Half Marathon on June 25 and SEA Games next on my schedule.

His first instructions when I asked him about training, while tucking into my beef pho dinner? A 20-mile (32.2 km) run the next morning.

That was twice as long as what I thought I'd have to run! Damn, marathon training is hard.

But then again, leaving our comfort zone is what makes all of us better at what we do.


  • Good hydration habits are key. Sip isotonic drinks like H-TWO-O regularly throughout the day, even on rest days as hydration assists greatly with recovery. Hydrate lots immediately after exercise.
  •  Always aim to have clear urine when going to the bathroom. Even slight dehydration (detectable by yellowish urine) can negatively affect performance.
  •  For long runs, plan a route that allows you to hydrate every 30min or so. Examples of hydration stops include water fountains or H-TWO-O vending machines (put a few dollars in your pocket when you run!).


  • Choose an isotonic drink to restore the lost fluid, electrolytes and minerals that your body has lost during sports so that you can continue to have a good game.