The war on the half marathon national record has been raging since 2014.

Since 2010, the season’s best times for the half marathon reflect just two names, but the competition has been anything but dull. The high turnover in record ownership between Soh Rui Yong and Mok Ying Ren saw the record drop from 70 minutes to 67 minutes within 3 years.

After a down period in 2016 when the record was just beginning to collect dust, Soh ran a blistering 1 hour 6 minutes 46 seconds at the Houston Marathon on Sunday morning (US time) to set a new national record (pending ratification by the national governing body). This is also the first sub-67 result by a Singaporean.

“I’ve been hunting this record for three years but have had bad weather in every single record attempt,” said Soh, who dealt with harsh weather conditions ranging from heavy storms to snow in his last five half marathons. Soh also owns the 10,000m national record and the fastest marathon time on a certified course.

While coming off a solid training block last month had him thinking about the record, stomach pains that resembled appendicitis symptoms threw a spanner into his preparation. Soh rested for six days while managing the pain and work duties in San Francisco with TheSmartLocal, squeezed in a week of light running, and toed the start line in freezing temperatures.

“That 42km long run gave me a boost physiologically because I did it at a training effort and didn’t need much down time after,” said Soh of last month’s Standard Chartered Singapore marathon victory, part of his buildup to the Houston Half. “Subsequent training runs of 39km and 35km were both very manageable.”

Soh works with his US-based coach Ben Rosario and ActiveSG distance coach Steven Quek, who tweak their workouts accordingly so that he can build marathon strength and track speed.

Since November, Soh switched jobs to work at TheSmartLocal, whom he credits CEO Bryan Choo for providing a flexible work arrangement that allows him to balance a fulfilling career with a full-time training schedule.

The immediate goal in Soh’s SEA Games buildup is the Tokyo Marathon in March, for which Soh has returned to his altitude camp in Flagstaff for the next five weeks. His Berlin race last September (2:25:05) has already qualified him for the Games in December.