The Real "Running Man"!
Mr Kek Hong Leng
Hardware belt supplier, 50 years of age
Four times SSBR 10km Men’s Master Champion
A veteran in the local running community, Mr Kek Hong Leng is a man with running in his blood. His passion for running is so infectious that it is an inseparable “part of his life”. It comes as no surprise that he is the defending champion of the SSBR 10km Men’s Master Category.
A bubbly character at 50 years of age, running has been a part of Mr Kek’s life for almost 30 years. Despite holding a strenuous day job, he still finds time to indulge his running habits five to six times a week. Covering 10 to 15 km each time, Mr Kek feels that running makes him feel young on top of keeping his body fit and health.
His love affair with running occurred during his NSman stint with the army’s 6th Division Unit. In the 90s’, Mr Kek was part of the 6th Division’s championship athletics team which scooped top prize in route relay and triathlon events. In addition, Mr Kek also counts finishing top in the North Face 100 Race 50km category as one of his proudest running moments.
These days, Mr Kek is an active member of the running group MacRitchie Runners 25 (MR25). Right after his weekly Sunday run, we took the opportunity to catch up with the running veteran over an early breakfast.
Qn: Good morning Mr Kek, thank you for finding the time to speak to us. Let’s us begin by asking what is the most important thing when training for SSBR?
Ans: I think it is important to build up and maintain a running momentum in marathon training and that is where a continuous training regime comes in. You don’t have to be aggressively sprinting during your training sessions. It is important to build up and maintain your body conditioning.
For the first time marathon runners, it is crucial to build up your muscles and maintain optimal fitness levels. It will be tough to get into a regime. But once you settled in, your body will be “seasoned”. Then, it wouldn’t be that gruelling when you switch focus to long distance training so as to build your stamina.
In addition, it is good to do speed workouts in your training. Once a week, I will sprint 800m to 1km before ending off with a minute of rest. That is considered one set of speed workout. So, I typically do eight to 10 sets as part of my regime.
Qn: Wow that sounds intense! So, how do you keep yourself motivated throughout the prolonged SSBR preparations?
Ans: I can tell you very simply, develop a love for running. If you have a love for running, you will be motivated to run whenever you are free. And remember, it is not about running at fast speeds. The main thing is to run at your own comfortable pace and enjoying the workout.
It is also good to run with a group of friends. Not only is it a social activity, it pays to have a pacer so that it helps to pace the entire running party. There is a fun element involved. And since you are with friends, you wouldn’t tire easily.
It is not a race amongst each other, but rather building up the group’s running stamina. Think of it as a combined training session where you can mutually motivate one another.
Qn: That is quite the ingenious way to stay motivated. Moving on, what is the biggest obstacle in marathon running?
Ans: There are different obstacles for runners of different age groups. For the older participants like myself, I’ll say injuries. As mentioned, the body’s recovery time slows down as your age goes up. It is important to be mindful of your body and take it easy.
Listen to your body. And don’t overstretch in training or you might find yourself in constant pain and that wouldn’t be good for your running. This is the voice of experience talking. I have learnt the hard way when I sustained injuries because I was too hard on myself.
But, every failure is a learning lesson for me. Subsequently, I learnt to take it slow and it prevents injuries. After all if you love running, you will have the desire to carry on.
Qn: Indeed, words of wisdom from an experienced head. So being such a veteran, what is the one thing that pushes you to the finish line?
Ans: I try to push myself harder by setting a personal goal of a top three podium finish at every marathon. It is helpful at my age as it challenges me to go on. I feel young when I am running alongside my younger counterparts.
And eventually as I get older, I am likely to slow down in my marathon participation as my body’s recovery time will also increase. But hopefully, I will be very happy if I am still running marathons at 70 years old.
Qn: That could well be a reality if you forge on haha. Finally, what advice would you give to people training for SSBR?
Ans: The main advice I would give is to train your endurance over long distances. It doesn’t have to be at aggressive speeds. Mileage is the most important thing in marathon running! Marathon running is about long distances, so you would rather allow your body to build up that endurance prior to the event. Or, you will run the risk of suffering an injury prior or during the marathon.
Ideally, you should always be constantly training. But, it is fair to say that you should begin training eight months prior to a marathon. For the first two to three months, you should take it easy as the focus is on building your muscle, stamina and fitness.
As the marathon date looms closer, you should step up your training about six weeks prior to the event. Finally, remember to bring your training down a notch during the week before the actual marathon. This is to ensure ample recovery time for your body. Patience is the key in marathon running. It has to be constant training rather than last minute intense training.
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