Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An Interview With Jeffrey Ng

Jeffrey Ng - Second Hwa Chong Alumni to do sub-3hrs besides Dr Benedict Tan

Jeffrey Ng was 3 times individual champion for National Schools' Cross-Country Championships during his competitions in U14, U17 and U20. He was first in secondary two, three and finally when he was a college year 2 student for the Nationals Cross - Country Championships. He is still currently the National Record holder for the U 17 for 3000m with a time of 9min 21sec set in year 2003. As a Coach to Jeffrey in the past, I have seen the talent in him. I also know that he has the potential to go far in athletics so long the SAA has some concrete plans. 

Right now, Jeffrey is doing his further studies in England and is keeping fit and is trying to train with the limited time that he has.

Just two days ago, he ran in the Berlin Marathon 2011. He did a valiant 2hr 55min 18sec, just about a minute faster of ex-Hwa Chong Alumni by the name of Dr Benedict Tan, thrice Sportsman of the Year award winner and the President of Sailing Federation. As far as I know, it seems that there are only these two from Hwa Chong who has done this feat.

As Jeffrey has ran and done proud for Hwa Chong and us, I have decided to do up an interview on his feat. 

Picture 1 - Jeffrey Ng with his finisher medal

An Interview With Jeffrey Ng

When was the first time you ever ran the marathon?
My first ever marathon was in Singapore when I was 13. It was still the ExxonMobil Marathon back then. After that I didn't take part in any more marathon until this year's Berlin marathon.

How long did it take you to finish the marathon? Did you take it competitively?
That marathon was completed in 3h39min as I remember. My coach also vividly can remember this time.  Also,  I remember  that surprisingly I was placed 21st in the local men category. I didn't do that marathon competitively. It was more like a longer training run on a Sunday and to go out and see how long I can last. it was just about having some fun as a team as most of us from The Chinese High Cross=Country team did it (including my elder brother and his teammates).

What races were you competitively running at the age between 13 and 18 years of age. ?

Between 13 and 18 years of age, i was doing anything from 800m to 10km, and the races became somewhat longer as I became older. But for these years, I was mainly focused on the 3000m and 1500m as these were the events I represented Chinese High in. Then when I went to Junior College, I moved up to 5000m and in J2, I also attempted the steeplechase 3000m.

What races have you been concentrating on in the past between the age of 19 and 26?
After I left school, I wasn't following any structured training and so I lost much speed endurance. But my love for running didn't go away just yet so I continued to run easy runs and do some workouts here and there. As a result of my unstructured training  plus my overzealousness in racing, I suffered a slipped disc in 2007 (when i was 19) and I took a whole year out of competitive running. It was only in September 2008 that I started running more regularly again. And since then, I ran some cross country races (8kms) and road races in the UK. From then on, i was more focused on 10kms and half marathons, and anything in between.

How was your preparation for the Berlin Marathon?

My preparation for Berlin Marathon was non-existent. I trained for a half marathon in March and then cut down on my training to prepare for my final graduating exams (which I did well and got on the dean's list), and then after that from June to Sept I was caught up with work in the Air Force and could only train in the weekday evenings and on Saturdays, I would do a tempo run. My mileage base, as a result, wasn't even ideally sufficient for a half marathon. And it was evident to me when I did the Army half marathon this year that my endurance wasn't really up to scratch. I managed to pull through that but I knew I would be in trouble for the upcoming marathon. So going to Berlin was really just a personal adventure. To see how much I have progressed (or not progressed) since I first ran a marathon 10 years ago. And it is perhaps my last chance to run an overseas marathon so I decided to give it a go even though my preparation was insufficient. And besides, I already booked everything. I just told myself, "go and enjoy the experience and just complete the race".

How did you feel finishing in 2hr 55min 18sec?
So i was really pleasantly surprised at my own performance. To be able to go under 3 hour at my first serious attempt at marathon is really fulfilling and gratifying. So looking back, all these ten years (or nine if you count the year of injury) did count for something. And well, I have to give a lot of credit to the excellent crowd support and the extremely fast course and perfect weather conditions. But the experience was really really painful. And having overcome that, I now better appreciate the huge difference in demands between half marathons and marathons. If you observe my split times, you would realise that I was suicidal in the first half of the race. Given my extremely low mileage, I knew I would die out after the halfway mark. So since I knew I would for sure hit the wall, I braced myself and just went for it. In the first few kilometres, I was telling myself, "Don't be crazy you are going to pay for this" but after that as the kilometres went by, I told myself "Heck it, just go with how i feel now and go. Come what may but that's for later. For now i feel great so let's just keep it going". And I was really enjoying it, hi-five-ing kids who were out there supporting us. And when I finally had nothing left in my legs, it was all up in my mind. I had to dig very deep to keep going. And finally between 35 to 36km after I stopped for a drink i could no longer go on. I stopped to stretch my calves and hamstrings and then started running again. My body simply wasn't conditioned to take this kind of punishing. And it was showing. Because which runner would stop at the 41st km in a marathon? I did. As I rounded the bend I was feeling extremely light-headed and felt like i was going to faint. So I stopped, bent over and let some blood go to my brain. And then I carried on, much to the delight of the spectators. In the first half of the race i still imagined myself giving a final kick at the last 195m. But when i finally got there, push as I might, I could only barely lengthen my strides. That was how exhausted i was. And never have I felt more exhausted in my life. Having pushed myself to that kind of limit gives me a bit more confidence in the things i can do. So I would say to anyone looking for some self-confidence, go train for a marathon and do a marathon. What doesn't break you make you stronger.

What are you doing for your studies?

I am doing a Masters now in University of Edinburgh. MSc. Performance Psychology. Doing this masters is something of a personal interest as much as a professional interest. Personally, the sport bias in this course appealed to me and also, because of its applied nature, I can much more easily appreciate and apply the lessons onto my own sporting experiences. And professionally, I can apply what I learn in my work as an air force officer.

Are you able to balance between running and studies. ?

I think the balance now is not so much between running and studies. Life is no longer as simple as when I was a high school student. Back then it was really just between studies and running. Eat Sleep Study Train. That was the mantra. Now, I have multiple commitments and I can no longer follow that mantra. And to try to fit everything into a day will be impossible. So what I try to do to achieve some balance is to think long term. Highlight the key events of the year, say for example Final Year exams and a very special race, and say a family holiday. Make sure you have adequate energy and time for these key events and plan around them. This also means that I have to sort out what are my priorities in my life at this current moment. As much as I love to do competitive running, I am always keenly aware that there are other expectations of me that I have to fulfill. The best thing I can do is to be efficient. I used to be able to spend the whole afternoon on training. But now I have to be efficient. I have to cut down training times from 4 to 5 hours to 2hours without sacrificing quality. Efficiency also trains someone to be focused, both at work and when training. By being efficient, we have more time to do things we like to do.

What is your short and long term goals?

My short term goal is to continue running competitively and to train with more structure. I am hoping to hop onto some training with the university's track team. My long term goal is to still be running fit when I am in my 50s and 60s and hopefully, I will be able to use what I learn in my years of studies and running to groom my kids to be excellent sportspeople too.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Latest News - Jeffrey Ng Does 2hr 55min 18sec for Berlin Marathon 2011

Berlin Marathon 2011 - From Current National Age Group record holder to a marathoner.

Picture 1 - An examplary model student, Jeffrey is still the current National Record Holder for 3000m in 9min 21sec set in year 2003.
With very low mileage, Jeffrey Ng, a former Hwa Chong student, who is still the current National Schools' Track and Field record holder for 3000m doing 9min 21sec, ran the Berlin Marathon 2011 and did a time of 2hr 55min and 18sec.Jeffrey told me that he was not prepared for this marathon, but having signed up for this marathon, he decided to run after all. He was telling himself that he could have joined us in the past for the Berlin marathon in year 2008,  but this did not materialise.

For this year, he had decided to take big gamble by running fast so that he will have an allowance where he can slow down later on in the race but try to keep himself going and finish in a respectable time. He knew that he was not ready for even the half - marathon. 

It was the second marathon completion, where the first one he did was at 12 years of age, where a group of 8 secondary one boys from Hwa Chong were able to run and complete the race, which was for fun and not meant to be competitive. He did a time of 3hr 41min at the age of 12 when I was the Hwa Chong Cross-country coach.

In fact, the Berlin Marathon 2011 race is considered the first time at least he is doing some form of training as an adult with the organs of the body developed. After hitting the half-way mark at 1hr 22min for the Berlin Marathon, Jeffrey Ng started slowing down to the point that he stopped at around the 35-36km mark. He told himself to bear with the pain of the body and finish the game. Eventually, he realised that he was able to finish the race in 2hr 55min 18sec. 

I believe that with proper training, Jeffrey is capable of going down below 2hr 50min. Jeffrey was very contented, like myself getting an handshake from Haile Gebreselassie in the past in London, he was also able to get the handshake of this great runner from Ethiopia. What a sweet moment!

As I can see, I believe that Jeffrey, besides Dr Ben Tan, are the two Hwa Chong Alumni to do a sub-3hr in marathon. This is great piece of news for Ex-Hwa Chong students. 

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Berlin Marathon 2011 - Patrick Makau breaks the Marathon World Record

Patrick Makau Finally Breaks the Record

The Berlin Marathon 2011 saw another world record set by defending champion Patrick Makau of Kenya, who broke Haile Gebreselassie's world record with 2:03:38.

Makau led after 27 kilometres, with one of the pacemakers Kenyan Stephen Chemlani stayed with him and finished second, in 2:07:55, with another Kenyan, Edwin Kimaiyo third in 2:09:50 at this IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

Gebrselassie, eventually dropped out after the 35 kilometre point after maintaining a second position.

Kiplagat was first in the women's race with, Irina Mikitenko, a German coming in second in 2:22:18,winning Paula Radcliffe.

Nicholas Eugene - Improves by 10min in Mizuno Wave Run 10km (25/09/2011)

Nicholas Eugene - Does 46min in Mizuno Wave thus breaking away from his past of doing near 56min plus in 10km races.

Picture 1 - Nicholas, left of the picture does 46min in Mizuno Wave Run, after running his own time-trial and running in the Yellow Ribbon Run 10km last week.