SINGAPORE — The 2017 SEA Games men’s marathon in Kuala Lumpur is set to deliver a thriller for fans here and across the Causeway, with the Republic’s two gold medallists Mok Ying Ren (2013) and Soh Rui Yong (2015) to race in the event together for the first time at the Games.
Mok, 28, booked his spot on Sunday (March 19) at the Seoul Marathon, clocking a new personal best (PB) time of 2hr 26min 07sec — over 10min under the SEA Games qualifying mark of 2:37:10.
Juggling a hectic work schedule with daily training sessions, the orthopedic surgery resident at National University Hospital had planned for the Seoul race to be his first and only qualifying event for the SEA Games.
Racing in cool spring conditions in the South Korean city, Mok’s do-or-die mission paid off, as he cruised home in 2:26.07 to notch his first PB since the Gold Coast Marathon in 2013.
“The conditions were very good, and the race course was pretty flat,” said Mok. “Historically the women finish at 2:24 so I used that as a benchmark racing against the elite women, and that was generally the plan. In the last 5km, I was fighting cramps but I just pushed on to finish strong. I couldn’t remember my PB as I was running, so I just tried to go under (the qualifying time) and I’m happy with the result.”
Mok had missed out on defending his gold at the 2015 SEA Games as he was forced to withdraw due to a shin injury, and he is happy to be back competing at the regional Games. He added: “The SEA Games is always one of the highlights every two years, and I’m focused on keeping injury-free.”
Reigning marathon champion Soh had earned his spot last October with a PB of 2:24:55 at the Chicago Marathon.
The race between two of Singapore’s top marathoners will be keenly watched by the local fraternity and fans, particularly after both athletes were involved in a public spat on social media last year over their comments on Singapore Athletics’ wildcard selection criteria for the Rio Olympics.
The men’s marathon is set to be a hotly-contested one, with Indonesia challenger Agus Prayogo launching his bid for a first marathon gold. A three-time SEA Games gold medallist in the 10,000m, the distance runner clocked an impressive 2:21:35 at the Seoul Marathon on Sunday.
Soh is looking forward to racing in Malaysia with his fellow Singaporean. “I’m genuinely glad for Mok that he has achieved a PB, and it’s good for Team Singapore to have some depth.
“Having two strong marathoners is great for Singapore athletics. Just as the Sebastian Coe-Steve Ovett rivalry pushed them to both become world beaters, I think this can have a similar effect on us. I know it has on me over the last few years , every time Mok is in the race, I run a lot better. That will be something I’m looking forward to in the SEA Games.”
Mok added: “It’s exciting to have two Singaporeans running 2:20s ... It’s good that Argus is stepping up to the marathon and it’ll be exciting to see how he does. At this point, everybody is running 2:20s so anything can happen.”
Correction: In an earlier version of this article, we wrongly reported that Mok Ying Ren’s time was over one minute faster than the qualifying mark. We are sorry for the error.