|Going Loughborough University was one of the best decision in life|
When I was about to go and study at Loughborough University of Technology, England, between 1992 to 1994, specialising on Physical Education and Sports Science, there were some lecturers who were encouraging me to go study there. Out of the lecturers in the former College of Physical Education, only one lecturer by the name of C. Kunalan came to me to suggest strongly that I should not go to Loughborough University to study and he told me to go to an American university instead. I respected Mr Kunalan's advice, but eventually I felt that Mr John Sproule's suggestion was better. I went ahead to study at Loughborough University. My decision went unhampered although some friends were also discouraging me.
Looking back, at my running career, even before going to Loughborough, I did 15m 31sec for 5km race in Singapore Open 1992, and 2hr 30min for California Marathon 1990, which was famous for all the way gradual downhill course, from start to finish. (My sincere advise to runners is to go to this marathon and you will have a great chance of getting a very good personal best time as the terrain is excellent for getting a fast time, as it is all downhill). At that time, my 10km time was 32min 42sec done in year 1992.
Within 7 months of my arrival in England, I took part in three league One National Cross Country Championships, representing Loughborough University. There were other cross country leagues going on in other parts of England as well. In league Two race of National Cross Country Championships, the best runner was in fact able to do a 2hr 12min timing for the marathon race. The runners were amazing and impressive. I hope that in Singapore we can have these kind of leagues. Many clubs were taking part.
In fact, in the first race of the league One, i was 66 position and I underestimated the runners. My time was very good, but I did not like the position, although, in Singapore I was the fastest runner for 5km to the marathon race. Later on, I realised that in one of the 10km cross-country run, nearly all runners, about 90 in total, were able to do a sub-34min. It was hard to see a 35min and above runner there. I had to really work very hard from start to finish throughout the race.
In our university, by training under the wings of George Gandy, who was later ordained by the Queen of England and is now called Sir George Gandy, at Loughborough University, I was also training with my own personal coach, Alan Guilder, on days where the University does not have any training. Earlier, Alan was taken as a training partner by me at first. Over time, knowing that he has done a 13m 32min for 5km, I decided to take him as a coach, after listening to my friend called Tim Dickenson, who was our cross county captain at that time.
My university study was actually fully funded by my own savings and from my parents' savings. Within 7 months, I did 31min 46sec for 10km. During the week before doing 31m 46sec personal best time, I had to sit for 5 tests and the test were all not that easy and I had to study extra hard and tone down the mileage a lot. In the third cross country league race, which was the finally one, I found myself about 100m away from Gorden, a Scottish runner, who had a time of 14m 47sec for 5km. He was also Scotland best junior runner for long distance running, at that time.
My two year study at Loughborough was quick and was also filled with test and assignments, projects and research work. (I took up research on heart rate as my supervisor found that there were no research been written much about heart rate in running, at that time). When it comes to running, one day, I was at the Loughborough Athletics Club to look at George Gandy's training schedule for the university athletes. Talking to him, I found that he was a very knowledgeable person who do altitude training projects and it has benefitted athletes in England. The handwriting of George Gandy's training programme was not neat but it was all done with excellent planning, which had technology behind it and it was supported by research.
Many runners excelled in running in Loughborough University because of George Gandy. Lord Sebastian Coe, the president of IAAF have praised George Gandy's Loughborough Circuit in his book for assisting him to break 4 world records in 41 days (800m, 1000m, 1500m 1600m).
Sir George Gandy was also the Head Coach of England middle and long distance team, when I was studying there.
One day, when I was at the Loughborough Athletics Club room, I happened to see the running times of runners aiming to qualify in races between 1500m and 5km races. I realised that in order to go for World Student (University) Games one must qualify for the time. for 1500m, I realised one got to do 3min 46sec to qualify. For 5km the time was about sub-14min. Immediately, something made me to write back to Rina, a former admin manager for the then Singapore Amateur Athletics Association on the dismal state of Singapore Athletics. I did not get any reply.
I wrote that there were a lot of middle distance runners in Loughborough University. That was year 1992. I found that the slowest middle runner for 1500m was doing 3min 53sec. At that time, the fastest runners in Singapore were M. Maran and Saravanan and their times were 3min 53sec. I wrote to her that athletes were giggling about the Singapore's best time, at that time, and I told her that athletes there asked me why the times were very slow. They were my good friends and showed a lot of respect towards fellow runners and they were very curious about Singapore's slow time. Some of the Loughborough Athletics middle and long distance runners became subjects in my research studies, for my degree course.
Over time, I realised that most of the coaches in England were well versed in Sports Science. In Singapore many of the coaches only have basic sports science. When i did IAAF level one course I realised that many have not done the basic sports science yet. I feel that it is important to have basic sports science before doing the IAAF coaching course.
In Loughborough I also saw Paula Radcliffe, current world record holder doing her workouts. The training programme which were scientific.
Hence, I feel that it is important that coaches like George Gandy presence in Singapore would, may be, be an asset to Singapore. Loughborough is known as the Mecca or running in England. Using George Gandy training principal and technology, I was able to assist, over time, in Singapore, 13 athletes to obtain sub-3hours time for the marathon, in my own life, so far. Looking at our 1500m to 10km race time that is going on in the university, I feel that the timings for Singapore's long distance races have not improve and we need a knowledgeable coach to assist runners in Singapore. It is time that Singapore look for coaches with excellent Sports Science back ground, especially at least having a degree, and to develop the runners in Singapore. George Gandy was also good in Physiology and he was my athletics lecturer for Sports Technology. It was through him that we learnt the blue print on how top Olympians train for middle and long distance races. There are plenty of coaches with very good knowledge in coaching in England, USA, Europe, Kenya, etc that we can consider.