For the second year running, Soh Rui Yong was not the favourite at the SEA Games marathon as he toed the line at 6 a.m. on Saturday.
But once again, Soh beat the odds. In the final turn of the 5-lap course surrounded by towering government buildings, the 2015 champion kicked down heavy favourite Agus Prayogo (Indonesia) to win in a time of 2 hours 29 minutes 27 seconds, a season best.
With 4 kilometres to go, Soh and Prayogo were the final two survivors of the initial lead pack of five, running side by side as the competitors in the community Larian Sukan SEA 2017 run cheered them on from the other side of the barrier.
At that moment, no one could predict the result. Prayogo owns faster PRs than Soh from the 5K to the marathon and owns more SEA Games medals. Soh was counting on his finishing speed to outkick his rivals if he could stick with them long enough.
The Singaporean had an extra motivator to perform well that morning – it was his father’s 55th birthday, and a gold medal would be the perfect start to his day.
However, Prayogo was nowhere near the exuberant Soh, who was egging on a wildly cheering crowd and pointing at a stray cat. The Indonesian settled for silver with a time of 2:31:20.
Initially, 2015 silver medalist Boonthung Srisung seemed to be in medal contention as he, Prayogo and Soh stuck with one another through the race.
However, Srisung cramped up with 10km remaining. After hobbling a few steps, he crumpled to the ground and was sent to the finish line in an ambulance. The Thai is penciled in for the 10,000-meter the following weekend.
That left the two Malaysians to battle for the bronze as they stuck to each other like glue, waiting for the opportunity to strike. Eventually, Muhaizar Mohamad emerged victorious, completing the race in 2:31:51 and 19 seconds ahead of countryman Leo Tan.
Fellow Singaporean Mok Ying Ren finished 7th of 15 competitors in 2:44:31. Unlike Soh, he did not have a pack to latch on to. Mok was left to reel in competitors one by one as he moved up the ranks from the back. Three men did not complete the course.
In the women’s race, the Philippines’ Mary Joy Tabal dethroned 2015 champion Natthaya Thanaronnawat in a landslide victory of 2:48:26, more than 7 minutes clear of her next challenger. Singapore’s Jasmine Goh, who spent most of the race tucked in 5th, caught one more challenger in the end stages of the race to place 4th (3:14:36).
Singapore’s other runner, Rachel See, was the sixth finisher as she walked across the finish line in 3:46:41 while fending off stomach cramps.