“Just go out there and see how fast I can run,” thought Lui Yuan Chow as he toed the line in his season debut at the Victoria Milers meet on Thursday evening.
It turned out to be a perfect time trial. Lui clung to the rest of the field who clicked off metronomic 61-second laps. No medals on the line, no sit-and-kick championship style racing, just “balls to the wall” running.
Even though Lui flailed his way to the line after mounting his kick too early, his time of 3 minutes 51.51 seconds was good for a PB.
“I’m stoked. It shows that my hard work is going somewhere,” said Lui, 19.
It was only when Lui’s mother did an internet search after the race that they realised it was a national record. Chamkaur Singh set the previous national record (3:51.59) more than 16 years ago, also in Australia.
Lui now owns the youth, junior and senior records in the 1,500m, as well as age-group records in the 3,000m and 5,000m.
But he is not one to dwell on his accomplishments. Living and training in Victoria, Australia since he was 8, Lui is surrounded by athletes who easily run faster than him. In his race on Thursday, he placed sixth and was two seconds behind the winner.
Lui Yuan Chow in the yellow singlet of the Doncaster Athletic Club towards the back of the pack.
The last time a Singaporean other than Lui ran faster than 4 minutes was Raviin Kumar at the 2015 SEA Games. Lui’s time is 2 seconds faster than the 2017 bronze medal mark, which puts him in good standing to represent Singapore at his first SEA Games next year.
Training under relative anonymity three time zones away, Lui, a first-year physiotherapy student at La Trobe University, has steadily progressed to become the nation’s top middle-distance runner. Records come as a bonus to him, but his “never settle” attitude keeps him hungry for faster times.
One of the athletes he looks up to is Stewart Mcsweyn, who ran 3:34.82 as a 23-year-old and ranks 23rd in the world this year.
Closer to home, Lui was tickled that he got beat by a junior in his race.
“The guy was born in 2000!” said Lui.
There are 12 months before the Games and Lui knows he has work to do. His regional competitors can easily run sub-3:50. Consistency is Lui’s main focus – “What’s the good if I run 3:51 now and run 3:58 in the next race?” – as he works toward going below 3:50.
But training in an environment where he is surrounded by faster guys has hardened Lui to the fact that he has to keep improving to become a serious contender.
“I can’t be slower than when I was 17,” he said.