First half marathon of the year? Not a problem for Mok Ying Rong.

After waiting out a thunderstorm that delayed the program by an hour on Sunday morning, the defending Great Eastern Women’s half marathon local champion stormed back into the National Stadium in a time of 1 hour, 27 minutes 21 seconds. Rachel See and Neo Jie Shi finished second and third respectively.

“This is a great boost for me for the upcoming Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon,” said Mok, 25. “Rachel was running really strong, so that gave me the push to do even one better.”

In a race strategy reminiscent of last year, Mok ran with See for the first 18 kilometres before cranking up the pace, passing a few international runners in the process.

“Before I knew it, the race was over,” said Mok.

For the most part of the year, the marathon specialist competed in shorter distances from 5Ks to 10Ks as part of speed training. The half marathon was a final checkpoint before the full marathon in December.

With just six weeks left to their goal marathon, both Mok and See are scrambling to pile on the mileage before facing each other for the final time this year. Mok plans to add more tempo runs to get to 100km per week while See strives to fit in LSD runs (long slow distance).

Rachel See is the runner-up in the local 21K category at the Great Eastern Women’s Run. (Romaine Soh)

See was struggling to balance family, work, and shifting into her new place, which meant that her weekly mileage averaged around 60km. Fatigue was a common enemy discouraging her from getting up for a morning run compared to staying snug under the covers. See relies on her music player, loaded with the newest songs courtesy of her daughter, to distract her from the fatigue.

Even with the SEA Games looming in almost a year, See is not too concerned. The two-time SEA Games representative is more focused on the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, where she won the first-ever national title last year.

“Just take it easy, see how it goes,” said See.

Last year, Mok bested See over the half marathon but played bridesmaid to See less than two months later in the full marathon.

“I have a long way to go in terms of doing well in the marathon,” said Mok, whose grand plan for the marathon is to clock a sub-3 hour time in Singapore. Vivian Tang was the last Singaporean to run sub-3 on home soil (2008 Standard Chartered Marathon, 2:56:31).

The lower mileage in the earlier part of the year allowed Mok to put more effort into her job as a physiotherapist, but she is ready to return to the longer distances.

“I expect some tough days ahead, but I’m also very excited.”