JustRunLah!: Your just ran a new PB of 2:32:12 at the New Orleans Rock and Roll Marathon race, taking off 3:27 from your previous PB. Congratulations! How do you feel about it?
Ashley: Thank you! I feel so blessed to have done that, together with Coach Rameshon by my side, Team Singapore singlet on my chest, and my mom giving me strength from above. Race day was not a straight-forward affair because it had one complication: I did not know if I could even make it past the warm-up. Three evenings before the race, I had to limp because of a sudden onset of pain in my right second toe joint. On hindsight it was due to jamming it on the rocky Kenyan terrain a couple weeks earlier, only to put more stress on it during my final two road workouts in USA. Thankfully, faith in God got me through the 3m36.4s/km average pace, amidst a gradually numbing toe, several short inclines, and hot wind. Thankfully, I avoided any injury risk so the joint is perfectly functional now. To have the American organizers present me a Singapore flag before prize presentation was a joyful moment I will never forget. It was a culmination of years of transformation from overweight 80kg runner to national marathoner, guidance and support from coach and family, self-belief, and not listening to “conventional wisdom”.
JustRunLah!: Can you share with the Singapore Online Running Community, in your opinion, what is the most important factor in running a good race?
Ashley: Keep your head. Rudyard Kipling has a poem that starts with this: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.” Pre-race jitters, self-doubt, surrounding athletes starting at breakneck pace, having a GPS watch error, these are all distractions from staying in the present moment. The best runners of the world have unwavering crystal clear focus and awareness during their race. Trust in your preparation, clear your mind, and just run. “Be dumb and run,” says Boston Marathon champion Wesley Korir.
JustRunLah!: What is your mantra when the going gets tough?
Ashley: For New Orleans, it was “grace and strength”. I wear a wrist bracelet with the Kenyan flag and the word “strong” which I glance at occasionally to remind myself.
JustRunLah!: What are your pre-race rituals (if any)?
Ashley: A final jog 3 evenings before, spending as little time at the race expo as possible, relaxing in the hotel room the day before, sleeping early, waking up 3 hours pre-race to have my breakfast, 15 minute warm-up, and a prayer before the gun goes off.
JustRunLah!: You currently live, study, and work in South Carolina as a Chiropractic Intern at Sherman College of Chiropractic. Do you miss Singapore? Is there anything or anyone you miss? It must be hard being far from home during Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year!
Ashley: I miss the Singaporean food first and foremost; cheap but high quality filling food to be precise. I cook my own meals which gravitate towards Asian cuisine. I also miss Coach Rameshon’s Flexifitness team I train with back home; the kids in the Young Champions Program and the competitive adults alike have been like family to me. My extended family’s Chinese New Year reunion is another annual tradition if I have to skip. I have also had to painfully decline countless wedding invitations, some of which are my best friends. I trust they understand the sacrifices I have to go through until I graduate as a Doctor of Chiropractic. Last but not least, I took for granted lights on all roads and parks in Singapore; I was shocked on my first drive here on 1st January 2013 to realize there were none!
JustRunLah!: Who is your biggest source of inspiration in sports / life?
Ashley: If I could name two, it would be marathon national record holder Coach Rameshon and my mother. Coach took my sporting journey to a place I had never envisioned; that journey is just beginning. On the other hand, my mother has definitely been my biggest influence in life. She was my number one supporter in every endeavour I did, always behind-the-scenes and shying away from accepting any credit. She gave, love, and served out of her abundance without expectation of return. That lasting purpose is what I have been instilled with. It was difficult watching her pass away in 2010 after battling against years of colon cancer. I had been “mommy’s boy” all my life, even having her support me at the 2008 Florida World Ironman 70.3 Championship. Since then, I dedicate my running efforts to her memory. When the going gets tough, I flashback to how she would have never given up herself.
JustRunLah!: Complete this sentence: A marathon is a metaphor for life because…
Ashley: The experience allows us the opportunity to transcend pre-conceived limits.