22 Jan 2017

Distance Running in Singapore


by Jacter Singh (Jack)

Training for Distance running and clocking good times in Singapore is possible but if you know how!

One doesn’t need to train for 3 hours a day nor are required to cover 100km mileage a week or train in the dark like some coaches, thinking they have the secret formula in training programme but until now I don’t see athletes achieving or clocking good time in races.

As a teenager, my bastion for training was the MacRitchie Reservoir trails and the humble grounds of Queenstown Stadium before officially qualifying for the 1979 Sea Games.

In 1979, two weeks after a formal training of only 2 weeks under a coach (Mr Maurice Nicholas, current AAA Secretary), I did 32.50.2 in the 10000m race, which I run barefooted on the bitumen track at the old Farrer Park Stadium. Being the first race for me, the race plan was given by our coach to my teammates and myself. My team were basically made of senior runners and national runners and one of them was M. Kumaravelu (1977 SEA Games bronze medalist in the marathon).

As the race was progressing and into 8th lap, I felt the pace was too slow even being just a novice runner and as a 17 years old lad who has never run a 10000m track race before. On 2 occasions in the race, I tried overtaking my teammates, but was angrily told to stay at the back and follow but by the tenth lap and still in the chasing pack, I just overtook my group and started chasing the 2nd runner and into the next 2 laps, I started closing the gap on the leader.

I remember with 4 laps to go, I was running against the time and with no one to chase but along the way I had overtaken majority of the field by a lap or two, supporters and teammates were rooting for me and astonishingly rival club supporters started frantically reminding the leader that I was closing in furiously from the back.

Crossing the finish line was really a relief for me, since running barefooted on the bitumen track and under the blistering sun, both of my feet were full of unsighted blisters and yet I managed to clock 32.50.2 in my very first senior race and I have battered the SEA Games qualifying time by 9s to spare.

History was written, I was labeled the “Flying Sikh” amongst some of the monikers given by the media and I seriously wanted to garner for more glory.

After this historic run, SAAA (now known as SA – Singapore Athletics), did not recognise my time as it was too early of the season and not one of the SEA Games official qualifying meet.

Sadden with the news but it did not deter me from qualifying again as I was positive of posting an even better time.

Determination and training smart, a couple of months later, and running barefooted again in the old Singapore National Stadium, I was able to clock 32.37.9 and qualify for my very first SEA Games with a handsome 21s to spare.

Even though I didn’t win in the SEA Games in my very first appearance, I was contended with my sixth-placed, but I knew, what was my shortcoming and started training smarter and harder. Eventually, it took me to participate in 3 SEA Games before I garner a medal at the age of 22. Secondly, if only my pet event (5000m) was held before the 10000m in the 1983 SEA Games (Singapore), many believe just like me that I could have easily clocked a stunningly good time which hardly could have been broken by now. But locally, I was already on everyone’s lip as I kept winning local races after races, be it track races (800m to 10000m), cross country or road relay and I kept going on for 7 years without a single defeat but along the way, I knew that I wasn’t training hard enough because we weren’t getting any support and training after work the pain seeking routine where certain mileage had to be covered.

My only regret, that I hang up my spikes at a very young age of 24 years old but on the other hand, I think I did reasonably well because I set national records on our home soil in a humid climate while other Singapore athletes who have done better times than me, had done in foreign countries which is much easier to run mid/long distance in thin air and cooler weather.

One needs to have a proper understanding of a training programme and then applying it, with the know-how and whether it is feasible to do it and also whether 2 session training is doable. During our era, it was different from now, with so much support these days but yet the athletes are not able to achieve any reasonable good time. To me, some coaches should shoulder the blame, who are merely relying on internet and books for the training programme for their athletes, some coaches even giving colourful training programme meant for Olympic runners when they themselves have never commanded a good time in their heydays. Some even make the athletes train in the darkness, thinking that others will follow their secret training plan.

So look for a coach who can motivate you, give you a proper training programme but firstly ensure the coach themselves have run an official race from 400m to 10000m, in order to understand the athletes better rather than giving colourful training programme which the coach himself/herself have never done before. At times, training must be enjoyed by the athletes rather than giving stereotype or Olympic training programmes to athletes and with that, still, their athletes are unable to perform at local and regional meets.

As I grew older with unfinished goals on track, I jokingly use to tell close confidantes that in my next life I would love to be an athlete again as I genuinely miss all the training sessions.

My Achievements –

  • Former Men’s National 5000m Record Holder for 12 years (1983-1995)
  • Current 10,000m (32.37.9) National Under 20 Record Holder since 1979, set at the age of 17 years old
  • Current 5000m (15.06.5) National Under 23 Record Holder since 1983
  • 1983 SEA Games medalist in 10,000m
  • Won numerous International meets
  • Unbeaten in Singapore in Road Races, Cross Country, Track Races from 800m to 10,000m for 7 years

If you would like to know more about my achievements, glory days, go to PRESS to read the clippings……for your leisure.