Monday, January 26, 2015

Ashley Liew - A Personal Best time of 2hr 32min 12sec in New Orleans Marathon 2015 - An Interview

An Interview With Ashley Liew

 By Saranniya

Picture - (left to right) Coach Rameshon and Ashley Liew, two hour before the race.

1.      How are you feeling about your timing? 
I am so grateful and blessed to be able to do a 2h32m12s, a 3m27s improvement from October’s Chicago Marathon 2014. I felt encouraged when Coach Rameshon was able to come together with me for the race to give me moral support. To emerge runner-up of a prestigious Rock ‘n’ Roll series race was a proud moment for Singapore and Flexifitness. To have the organizers present me a Singapore flag so I could drape it over during prize presentation was a beautiful moment.

Picture 2 - About to collect our number tags and goodie bag

2. What challenges did you face before and during the race, both physically and mentally? Despite all this, what kept you going till the end?

The challenges started 3 days before the race. What was supposed to be an easy confidence-boosting last run turned to worry when I had a sudden pain in my right 2nd toe joint, causing me to walk the last 1k. I suspected the sensation was due to jamming that joint during workouts on rocky terrain in Kenya, worsened by impact on hard road sustained during my two final workouts in USA.

Picture 3 - Warm up before the race

At the start line, I was not sure whether I should continue after halfway; our plan was to adopt a “wait-and-see” approach during the race to avoid any injury. The rest days had healed the sensation significantly which gave me confidence. More importantly, I had faith. I reflected on the Bible verse from Matthew 14:31: “…‘You of little faith,’ He said, ‘why did you doubt?’” When the race started, I kept repeating to myself the phrase “grace and strength”. Thankfully, it was a calculated risk that paid off thanks to God’s grace. Only in the last third of the race did the sensation start kicking in from slight numbness to slight pain, so I had to back off in the last three miles to be cautious. The foot post-race was fine and no injury was sustained despite the pounding, so now complete rest would complete the recovery.

Picture 4 - Dynamic warm up before the race

There were other minor challenges out on course. Miles 17 to 22 was tougher than expected due to a strong wind, slight undulations, and lack of shade against the rising heat along the lake. I just stayed focused to get through that patch, also reminding myself 2012 Boston Marathon champion Wesley Korir’s mantra: “be dumb and run”.

Picture 5 - The reward, second overall in Men Open category in Rock 'N' Roll New Orleans Marathon 2015

3.      What was your target? Did you accomplish it? 
The target was a 2h30m. At the 20 mile mark, I was still running 25s faster than my planned split of 1h54m30s. With the toe issue, I had to back off in the last few miles to be cautious. Yet, I was not slowing down drastically and my movements were still smooth. So I came close to my target, but most importantly coach and I both knew that I was stronger than before.

Picture 6 - The finishers and crowd just after the race.

4.      How was the organization of the race?

It was well organized start to finish. It was on a smaller scale than my previous races but the Rock ‘n’ Roll branding kept it professional. The multiple wave starts kept the start area organized too. Racers I talked to post-race all had positive things to say about it.

5.      How was the route? 
It was flat with nice long stretches where I could focus on the pace car in the near distance in front of the lead runner, apart from slight undulations between miles 17 and 22. The winner, John Brigham who won in 2hr 28min 45sec, did a personal best. The 6th place finisher Jp Botti did around an 8 min improvement on his personal best. It can certainly be fast.

Picture 7 - The organisers gave a Singapore flag to Ashley

6.      How was the support? 
The crowd was fantastic and encouraging for key areas. Quite a few stretches where long and lonely, but thankfully I had a cyclist assigned to lead (and encourage) me throughout. I had visualized having my own lead cyclist before the race and it manifested. 

Picture 8 - Two ardent fans of Ashley who wanted to take picture when they congratulated him for coming in second position in the race.

7.      What is your next target? 
The hope is that my timing would be good enough to represent Singapore at June’s Southeast Asian Games marathon event. However, that part is in God’s hands. Until then, I might consider running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh half-marathon in early April.

Picture 9 - Our appreciation to Omni Riverfront Hotel and staff, Jennifer, Avery and James. It was a pleasant stay there. 

8. Are there any people you would like to thank?
I would not have done this without God's grace. In addition, running is a team effort so I am grateful for having the following in my team: Coach Rameshon for literally following me to the ends of the earth, the Singapore Athletic Association for financially supporting expenses for coach and I, chiropractors Dr Kelvin Ng and Dr Bill Decken for facilitating my body's functioning at optimum potential, schoolmates and instructors at Sherman College of Chiropractic for appreciating my sporting endeavors, my sponsor Asics Asia for shipping me fantastic shoes and apparel, my Flexifitness team back home for their constant encouragement, as well as Singaporean family and friends who believed in me. Last but not least, this was in honour of my mother who would be proud.