Monday, November 17, 2014

Meeting Dr Ansgar Cheng for my 30km Run (Part 2)

A View to a Kill: Run into It, Shall We?

By Dr Ansgar Cheng

rameshon murugiah running coach 

It has been a very interesting journey since my 2 little girls started their running program with FlexiFitness in June 2014. My wife, being very wise (as usual), identified the coach and signed my girls up for it. Coach Rameshon is the Founder and Head Coach of FlexiFitness. He has a team of dedicated coaches from various sports disciplines to assist him with running the show.

At first, my wife and I were worried that the running group may be overly indulging in adrenaline and that my girls at the tender ages of 10 and 11 may not be able to cope with the training from an athletic and inter-personal point of view.

It turned out that the coaches were great and the other running kids were fantastic. There are many runners in the group and there is a good spread of age and talent ranging from top age group runners (the elite runners) to national level runners. I would say I could not honestly point out a single lousy person there – they are supportive, humble and hard working.

I was formerly a competitive high school middle distance runner and this continued throughout my dental school years. My ‘last’ 800m track event was the 1989 Inter-collegiate meet in Hong Kong and it was the first time that my parents ever made a point to watch me at the track. Ironically, it was the only time I missed a podium finish since 1982.

Fast track a few decades – I was inspired by the good job my high-school coach (Manson Kwok) had been doing with the St Louis cross-country team and I started running 5000m again. However, I found that I plateaued soon after and minor injuries followed. When I met Coach Rameshon, he passed numerous ideas to me and one of them was ‘Run slow in order to run fast’. Then he tossed this idea about a ‘long run’.

At first I thought he meant ‘long run’ in terms of time line, then he elaborated further and went on to casually mention that a  ‘long run’ was running at a slow pace for a few hours on a rather regular basis!! Well, I was shocked, embarrassed and speechless and I told Coach Rameshon that the longest I had ever run at that point was 21km – the half-marathon I did in the 2013 Standard Chartered Marathon in Singapore. Running like that would give a heart-attack to my wife (and my mother) as Moon made me tattoo (OK, just write in permanent marker) our home number on my hand when I used to run in Toronto, “just in case Ansgar needs medical help”.

Anyway, after a few months of exercising with FlexiFitness, I received the green light from my wife to do some long runs. Yesterday, I set off to do a 30km slow-long run with Coach Rameshon at the Macritchie Reservoir. We were chatting on various topics while running about 20km into that scenic route when Coach Rameshon suddenly grabbed my arm very firmly and dragged me to a dead stop.
Now, at that moment, an amateur like me was huffing and puffing and I was on the verge of giving up anyway. Then I thought that it may be Coach Rameshon who needed some emergency attention, so I the thought flashed across my mind – I know emergency resuscitation but whoever needs it from me now has terrible odds of survival.

Then Coach Rameshon pointed out a beautiful bright blue and red creature to me, half a meter in front of our path – a 2 feet long venomous blue coral snake was in our path! If it was not because of his firm grip on my arm, I am quite sure that both the snake and I would had come very close to getting to know each other really really well (in an unpleasant way). Then I realized I was saved by Coach Rameshon! We went on to complete the run in a rather decent time without much suffering. Boy, am I grateful!

By the way, my three girls at home are into running. I am impressed that my wife also enjoys running now. The other night, my mom-in-law, Lily Fu, Founder of SeniorsAloud, came down from Kuala Lumpur and she was also running a bit alongside my two little gals in their training. That made my day.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Penang Bridge Half - Marathon 2014 - Mabel Low, 25, 8th position (1hr 43min)

Penang Bridge Half - Marathon 2014 - Mabel Low, 25, 8th position (1hr 43min)

 Penang Bridge Half-Marathon 2014 - A good run in Penang

One of the best race that I have ever ran was the Penang Bridge Half-Marathon in the 90s. I ran because it was AIMS certified. I would like to inform runners to run AIMS certified race as it is the exact distance and that they can work on their goals in running to get faster. I have done a 1hr 10m 52sec in the race, in the past, while M. Ramachandran, the former Malaysian top runner and current SEA Games 10km track record holder, did 1hr 06min 59sec. There were foreigners behind him all the way and I came in 7th overall. The only top 7 Malaysian runner was M. Ramachandran. Mr Chan Meng Hui, now 80 plus years of age brought me to Malaysia for races. Thanks goes to him. It was here that I gained confidence in running marathon under 2hr 30min.

Later on, I have brought some runners to race in Penang. For some years the race is organised well and for some years it was not. 

In the recent race, Mabel Low, 25, took part in the race and has done proud for Singapore by coming in 8th in the women open race category, with a time of 1hr 43min. I have tested Mabel recently and realised that she has a lot of potential to do well in future and has the ability to come in top 3 in the local marathon scene in the future. 

I have asked her to answer my interview questions quickly for the benefit of our readers, especially the women group to inspire them. I hope you enjoy reading this interview of hers.

An Interview With Mabel Low

Why did you choose Osaka Marathon 2014?
1. I Chose to go to Osaka Marathon as one of my close running buddies suggested that we should go to Japan to do a Marathon together.

Why did you choose Penang Bridge International Marathon?
2. I chose to go to
Penang Bridge Half-Marathon as I heard we will be running on a new bridge and also. I've never been to Penang before. So it's like killing 2 birds with a stone.

What was your time?
3. 1h43mins for half marathon.I'm Okay with the timing,didn't really have any expectations of myself as I've just finished a series of back to back races.

How was the race organisation?

4. The race organisation can be improved. I had problems at the water stations, it was too crowded due to the staggered flag off time. I was caught amongst the slower half marathon men open.

What is your next step?
5. I might come back in future to maybe do the full marathon.

Can you share with us next goal.
6. My next race is Stanchart Marathon 2014. Long term wise,Im planning to do a good timing at Gold Coast Marathon 2015next year.

Meeting Dr Ansgar Cheng for Sunday Morning Run

Morning Run - It is not just a fun but it is also on broadening knowledge as well.
A picture taken of Dr Ansgar and Marcel Sng, a few weeks ago

This morning, I met Dr Ansgar for a run. We decided to do a 30km run. We were, in fact, hoping that we could finish the run, rather than doing 25km only. We finally finished the 30km run. After the run, I met Ganesh Sivaraj, an avid cyclist and a runner who has done 3hr 10min personal best in marathon race recently. I shall discuss on meeting Dr Ansgar and the sharing that we had n this blog post. I shall write about Ganesh on the next blog post. Ganesh shared with me on Stanchart, discussing with me on the need on fairplay by the organisers of Stanchart Marathon. I agreed with him totally and told Ganesh that we hope that there will be fair play in these coming days to the Stanchart Marathon 2015. 

A Running cum Sharing Session With Dr Ansgar Cheng

I met Dr Ansgar, 48, a dentist by profession, at 7 15am. We decided to do a long run together. I was feeling tired in the morning when I woke up. However, the mere fact of meeting Dr Ansgar, made me to feel enthusiastic about meeting him and running as well. I just wanted to appear there at MacRitchie and then think about things later. We were feeling good and we had an enriching discussion throughout the run and we did not feel tired at all, until we were at 25km mark of the 30km run. Somehow, we ran and finished the 30km in 3hr 24min 44sec. We did not push the pace at all. We ran really as slow as possible. Usually, I will feel very lethargic at the last 5km. For the last 5km, I did feel tired but because of the enjoyable conversation I had with Dr Ansgar,  and I did not feel that tired at all. 

We discussed on a wide variety of topics during the run, from Physiology to Philosophy, and we discussing other important topics as well. 

We were sharing on the need to start looking at diet in training from the age of 3 and not later. When a person is thin, that does not mean that the person is without much fats. I told him that few people that I found skinny were found to be fat. Dr Ansgar told me a story citing that even when a person is skinny, that person was found to have a lot of fats. We felt that dieting is not just enough. We should focus on the physical goals, like running and exercise more to burn fats. He told me on fats called brown fats. 

For me, I told him that I like to keep myself competitive to a certain extent so that I do keep my weight in check. I also told him that I become very particular of my fat level, in this way. 

Then, the topic went to allowance that my mother gave me, which I found that it was frugal when I go to school, even though my mother could afford to give me more money. From there I learnt not to waste money. My mother did not give me too much money and she did not deprive me of getting food with proper nutrition. My mother always ensured that I had enough for my CCA. That made me to excel in running. 

Dr Ansgar told me stories on leaders who have kids who led frugal lives and that they became successful. He told me a story where a guy inherited 20 million, about 100 years ago, from his father, upon the latter's death. The son over time frittered all the money that the father had earned and ended alone and with no money in the pocket. I told him a story where two sons were given the inheritance by the father upon the latter's death. One son who was a hard worker, and he expanded the father's wealth. The other son, frittered the money away and ended in jail over time, also blaming the father for not guiding him when he was young. 

Both Dr Ansgar and I realised that it is better to work very hard and earn wealth rather than the money coming easily to us, where we may not appreciate and fritter away the money as we did not really earn the money. 

Today, I learnt a Chinese proverb from Dr Ansgar, " Wealth does not easily cross 3 generations". We can see this in born rich children in many parts of the world. The key word is to guide the child before they inherit the wealth. 

Anyway, our discussion was focused on the importance of hard work rather than discussing on wealth alone. We were just interested on how to apply in running. 

I was also discussing with Dr Ansgar on my mother's focus on being good kids rather than just be educated in life. Dr Ansgar told me several stories on people making it to the top with just hard work even though they were smart, but not brilliant in studies. I discussed with him on how Dr Hon Chiew Weng replying back to Hwa Chong Insititution students on the need to do the Hwa Chong diploma, that allows one to not get their GCE 'A' levels, but a diploma that enriches the students to get their scholarships easily. 

We discussed many topics and I feel that this blog post is just not enough. May be in other blog posts I shall write on the sharing that Dr Ansgar will be having with me during Sunday Morning runs. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Experiments With Coffee (Part 2)

Coffee - Boosts performance

It is well known fact that coffee has a number of disadvantages. However, researchers, in the past and at present, are agreeable in acknowledging that coffee does boost performance and has a number of advantages as well. 

It was in Loughborough University that I was informed by my former lecturer Sir George Gandy, who explained to us in our Athletics lesson on quantity that you need to take to boost performance.

I have tried drinking one drink per race all the time before the race and it has helped me to a great extent. That was during my competitive years. 

Over time, especially now. I have started to experiment on my body on the reaction I get by taking coffee just before a race. I thought about this recently on the need to share this experience to the outside world.

But before that, let me share with you on how I trained for the Chicago Marathon this year. Three  months before the race, I tried to train. I was busy doing  a number of Personal Training, and coaching. Hence, I was not able to train well. I was doing a twice per week training. However, I kept doing my longest mileage per week 20 to 25km, which was one long run per week. I decided to run The Chicago Marathon as a conditioning run for races of the future to do a sub - 3hr run, rather than racing in it.

I started training very hard only in the last two weeks of the race. I ran nearly everyday. I did three 30 to 35km distance run in that two weeks, using my own strategy to do a training that does not stress the joints and get myself injured. At the last 5 days, I did not focus on training, but I focused a lot of attention on rest and recovery instead. I told myself to focus on Stanchart Marathon 2014/or any AIMS certified marathon races in 2015.

The training methods I used for the Chicago Marathon was progressive and I was applying my knowledge that I have gained from running experience and after doing Physiology research in Loughborough University and also on following current research.

Hence, on 12 October, 2014, on Chicago Marathon race day, I tried drinking two coffee in the morning. Ashley Liew also witnessed this in the morning. It was surprising as I found that the race went very well that I did 3hr 30min 33sec. I was happy that my bettered my targeted time which was predicted to be 3hr 32min. 

During the run, I did not get any stitch and felt great. I ran the 10km in 44m 52sec and the half marathon in 1hr 37min. It was from here that I told myself that I have a lot of time to get the 3hr 32min. I felt great when I got 3hr 30min instead. 

For people who want to try two coffee, they must use this in their time trial or tempo to see the efficacy of the drink. I hope one does practice this before so that they are sure of not getting into physical complications, like getting stitch etc. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Xu Pei Hua - An Intervierw on her new 10km personal best time of 53min 59sec (Official)

Xu Pei Hua- Running is her passion from 12 years of age till now

By Saranniya

Xu Pei Hua is yet another person that I look up to as she is one of the rare athletes who can balance running and studies at the same time, especially now that she is doing her doctorate. Due to her demands in her studies she is not able to train every single day. However, she makes it a point to train at least three times per week and join Team Flexifitness at least once a week. I admire her great discipline that she has.
When I asked Coach Rameshon what type of athlete Pei Hua was in the past, he shared with me that she followed his instructions to the very letter. He also mentioned that she was a very hardworking and dedicated athlete who was ready to do any form of training without any complaint. This kind of spirit was actually found when she was you and it allowed her to come in 3rd in the Under 14 Girls Individual Category of the National Schools' Cross-Country race, organised by the Singapore Schools' Sports Council. 

(left to right) Xu Pei Hua, Helen Toh and Sumathy
Pei Hua also shared with me that she watched the true story of Louis Zamperini and was inspired by his mental strength that he had. The part that impacted her the most was the statement by him, "In all my life I have finished the race!" She said that  the inspiring statement is now her motto.

Coffee, after the Great Eastern Run 2014
Although, she has a busy schedule she ran the Great Eastern Women’s Race and she actually clocked an unexpected personal best time of 53mins 59sec for 10KM race.  Her time, in the past was 54min 07sec in  in the 10km race category of the 2013 Gold Coast Marathon race.

Xu Pei Hua's Great Eastern 10km Run Time.
target time (hh:mm:ss)
achieved time (hh:mm:ss)
pace (min/km)

As a doctorate student and at the same time running, I found that this interview of hers may inspire many who are doing higher studies to keep exercising while they are highly stressed. As such, it would to hear it from her. 

An Interview With Xu Pei Hua

How were you feeling during the race?
I was feeling fine. I stopped at the drink stations to hydrate myself. After crossing the finish line I threw up all the water and isotonic drink I drank during the race.

How was the organization of the race?
The organization of the race was good.

How was the race route?
The route was quite hilly. There were 3 to 4 hills which cause me to slow down.
How was your race preparations?
Due to my busy schedule I can only manage 3 times per week training with a mix of speed workouts, endurance runs and mental training. I also made it a point to join Coach Rameshon’s training every Thursday.
Were you satisfied with your results?
Yes I am satisfied and happy with my timing for clocking in my personal best timing. I am thrilled to done a personal best for a hilly course in Singapore.
What is your next target?
My aim will be below 53min for 10km. A little at a time. In the long run my aim is to improve my speed to a below 50mins for 10km. So that I can aim for a good marathon time in the near future.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Great Eastern Run - Xu Pei Hua does 53min 58sec, a personal best time

Xu Pei Hua - Her constant passion is running

Team Flexifitness in GE 2014 - (Left to Right) Coach Tan, Coach Rameshon, Xu Pei Hua, Emma Oh, Andrew Oh, Ewan Oh, Helen Toh, Ethan Oh, Coach Sumathy, Divya and Saranniya

I spoke to Dr Ansgar, 48, a dentist by profession, and an associate professor in NUS, on running and he told me that he took up running when he was young.  I also found out he has been running from the past until now. He is very happy with his passion, just like how I am happy with running. I told him that I took up running when I met my school mate by the name of Ow Kok Meng who persistently called me to train in running. At that time, I did not value running.

I was not that interested in running at first as my interest at that time was soccer. It was only when I reached secondary 3 that I took up running seriously. Running instilled a kind of discipline that my academic studies was not able to give. My internal discipline increased over time. It was because of  this that I was able to resist many distractions. I came in 6th individual in National Schools' Cross-Country Race. In 1981, I was supposed to come in top 3 but my injury at my knee area made things difficult that I came in 6th, instead. In the heats, I did 16min 02sec for the 4.8km race. In the finals, I did the 15min 56sec for the same distance. 

Over time, I wanted to be a Physical Education teacher. The first student that I started talking about running was Xu Pei Hua who was studying in Dunearn Secondary School. At that time, Pei Hua was just 12 years of age. I was doing my teaching practice at that time. In 6 months, I was able to form 6 teams of runners, a total of 36 runners. We won the A Division (under 18 years old) National Schools' Cross-Country Race. We were the champions. 

When I left Dunearn Secondary School, the school's captain was still following my training programme for himself and the rest of the team. Xu Pei Hua came in 3rd individual when she was in secondary two.

When Pei Hua was in secondary 3 and when Helen Toh was in secondary 4, Dunearn Secondary emerged as champions in the under 17 girl's team event. It is now very rare to see any government school winning or even coming in top 8 in the team event for the National Schools' Cross-Country Race. In the past, the government schools were able to compete and do well with autonomous school and independent schools. Several government schools were well known, like Jurong Secondary, Bartley Secondary, Chankat Changi Secondary, Henderson School, Dunearn Secondary plus other government schools were well known. It is a sad thing that there is no government schools winning the championship for several years for under 14, under 17 and under 20 years of age for both male and female categories. 

Anyway, coming back to the story of Helen Toh and Xu Pei Hua, I maintained contact with both of them for some years. Over time, as I was seriously training for the marathon race, I started cutting contact with the world, as I was too focused in bringing my timing for my marathon time down down. I did 2hr 24min 22 sec in 1995 in South East Asian Games marathon race. From 1995, I started to focus my attention to coaching. I stopped training seriously.

After successfully getting 12 gold medals for my school teams in National Schools' Cross-Country Races, over the years, I finally decided to leave my last school, Hwa Chong Institution (college section) to reach out to many people outside to run faster  in 2.4km to the marathon race.

Over time, I met Xu Pei Hua and Helen Toh again. They maintained contact with me. After some time, to my surprise, they started back to train for 10km and half-marathon. Recently, they took up running again and has not stopped running ever since. 

Today, in Great Eastern Run, Helen Toh did 2hr 36min in half-marathon and Xu Pei Hua did 53min 58sec for the 10km race. Helen Toh's husband, Andrew Oh, was there to support Helen in the race. For Pei Hua, it was a personal best time. Earlier on, her personal best time was 58min and she has been coming for our training despite working hard to complete her PHD studies that she is doing, currently. My wife Sumathy did 2hr 29min for the half-marathon race.  I was there to support my wife in the race.

Both my wife and Helen are planning to run a marathon in future. We are planning overseas race instead of Stanchart marathon race as it has split start and it takes gun time as official time in year 2013. 

Saranniya, our sports writer, has told me that she is keen in writing on Pei Hua's experience in running and doing a personal best time in the Great Eastern Race. My answer to the former was, " Why not!". Please stay tuned to read on this girl who has been an avid runner all her life. I am very happy to see her  and post the interview in my blog as she has great values of respect, discipline, selfless, filial piety, loyalty and above all, humility, besides liking running.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Coach Tan - 32km in 3hr 08min 53sec

Coach Tan Eng Howe -Running as a passion to keep healthy

By Saranniya

Coach Tan Eng Howe, 49, was a former Saint Joseph's Institution student, who was actively involved in cross-country as a CCA. He was a member of the Schools' Cross Country Team, where the school came in third in year 1981. Over time, as in his college years, in year 2 at St Andrew's Junior College, he took part in the National Schools’ 3000m Steeplechase and came in 2nd position.

As he grew older, he found his passion for photography and went on to pursue his dream. He became a professional photographer. Over time, as his interest grew for running, he started coaching with Flexifitness. He is very interested in Sports Science and would like to increase his knowledge in coaching.

Even though he isn’t as competitive as he was in his younger days, he is still committed to his training sessions just like how he used to train during his SJI days. Irregardless of rain or shine he did his training without fail. He like to keep running to keep fit and lead a healthy lifestyle.

I believe that many can learn from him to keep fit for life. He is an examplary. His approach is to  take a long term approach in being healthy. Recently, he has taken part in the Newton Challenge 32km and I believe that his interview will be beneficial for the young and old.

What is the race you took part in? The distance and timing? 

I took part in the Newton Challenge 32km run which was held on Sun 26th October 2014 at the East Coast Park. The race was flagged off at 5am. I completed the course in 3hr 8min53sec.

2. Are you happy with your timing? Did you hit your target? 

Yes, I'm pleased with the timing. My target was actually just to complete the run at an easy moderate pace. I was expecting to complete in 3hr 30.  As I wasn't planning for PBs, I ended up starting from the 3rd flag off group to accompany an old friend whom I bumped into that morning. This turned out to be a big mistake as all the drinks at hydration points were depleted by the runners in front. I estimated I would have lost at least 10 to 15 secs at each point waiting for the drinks to be refilled. Lesson learnt, I'll be starting from the front in future races.

3. How was the race organization? 

The organization was great. Water and isotonic drinks were well spaced out. Energy gels were also available at one point. There was as usual the big food feast awaiting us at the finishing point. Probably not a race for people seeking to lose      weight as the free flow of nasi lemak, sandwiches, ice cream and sweet jelly desserts will prove too tempting to resist.

4. Which part of the race course was the toughest for you?

The course which is actually 2 rounds of ECP starting from Big Splash is relatively flat throughout. So I didn't encounter any difficulty throughout. 

5. Did you enjoy the race?

Yes indeed. Running along the seaside with its gentle breeze in your face is a refreshing change to the usual routine.

6. What is your next race and target?

I have no race target. My aim is to stay healthy & maintain a reasonable fitness level to be able to keep up with our fellow athletes. Nevertheless, I do intend to run a full marathon next year, hopefully in a sub 4hr time.