When was the last time you sought marathon training advice from a local source?

If it wasn’t from your seasoned marathoning friends, it was probably from an international source, most probably from our Western friends. Jack Daniels has a running formula named after him. Runner’s World offers a few training plans for different ability levels.

But not everything in the Western world can be fully applied to us. Different body types, lifestyles, climate, infrastructure – all these affect how we plan training. Whether we can run twice a day, what time of day to run, if we can even hit the mileage that others manage so easily elsewhere in the world.

Steven Quek seeks to bridge the knowledge gap on safe marathon training as well as localise the information to Singaporeans.

“I observed that many of our local runners have certain misconceptions about marathon training,” said Quek, who coaches the ActiveSG and Hwa Chong Institution distance teams. “Many undervalue the importance of rest and eating well, placing emphasis only on training. So I thought, ‘Let me put all this together in a book because not everyone has access to a coach.’”

No coach, no problem

Thus, the marathon training book “Marathon: Training Smart” was born. The book takes on a question and answer format, divided into seven sections based on topics encompassing recovery, nutrition and cross-training methods. It ends with an appendix detailing the principles of training, a list of useful strength and conditioning exercises, and suggested running routes in Singapore.

The book is also dotted with personal experiences of five marathoners of varying backgrounds, ranging from marathon enthusiasts to high-performance athletes such as double SEA Games champion Soh Rui Yong and Olympian Neo Jie Shi.

“Marathon: Training Smart” is Steven Quek’s latest publishment. His other works include a student-athlete’s handbook and a biography on sprint legend C. Kunalan, “C. Kunalan: Singapore’s Greatest Track and Field Athlete”. (Alvin Ho)

As a coach, Quek has no shortage of accolades under his belt. This year, Hwa Chong Institution swept the ‘A’ Division team titles at the national schools cross country championships and claimed multiple medals at the athletics championships. Beyond the school level, he also coached Lim Kien Mau to two sub-2:40 performances from 2008-2010.

Perhaps the biggest struggle for Quek, who also lectures at NIE, while penning the book was putting training concepts into layman’s terms. How do you explain to beginners the benefits of tapering, yet at the same time explain why they may not need to taper if they hadn’t done a proper build-up?

“To state exactly how much and how early to ‘taper’ is tricky. While they may not have built up the huge training volume to necessitate the idea of a ’taper’, they should, however, not be going into the marathon having trained very hard the few days before the event,” said Quek.

Sports, education, now the seniors

Having been involved in sports and education for much of his life, Quek wants to benefit another branch of the community now – the seniors. Those who donate at least $30 to HCA Hospice Care will receive a copy of his book. (To date, Quek has achieved 75% of his $30,000 donation goal.)

Said Quek, “We get to pursue our interests and take on challenges. But some people cannot, so I wondered how I could make this project more helpful to people.”

After this marathon project, Quek is considering putting together a book on fitness to debunk the myth that it’s only about cardiovascular fitness. Or update his student-athlete handbook. He already has a list of new things to add to his marathon book, even though it’s barely two months old.

You always learn more and think that you could do better after completing a project,” he said.