Standard Chartered Bank

Half-marathon victor just gets better with age

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 May, 2015, 5:57pm

The good news for Hong Kong's ageing society is that - on the evidence of yesterday's women's half-marathon event anyway - some things really do get better with time.

Take winning, for example. Singapore-born Toh So Liang has achieved a lot in her 25-year athletics career - from representing her homeland in international competitions over distances of 5,000 metres upwards to cutting a swathe through the competition since moving to Hong Kong.

But a winning time of 1:27:39 was enough to have her beaming like never before while she admired her trophy at Victoria Park yesterday. And she was quick to point out why.

'I've never won overall and I've been running here since 2003, first in the 10km and then from 2006 in the half-marathon,' explained the 47-year-old. 'So I am just so happy. The last two years I have won my own masters category but never before the overall. I have never felt better.'

Toh revealed she had been more concerned with simply running her own race than with the bigger picture of winning the event - until, that is, she emerged from the Western Harbour Tunnel and found herself the centre of attention.

'Before the race I said to my husband that I didn't really think I could run a tactical race and get myself into a good position,' she said. 'I never expected to win. I just decided to go out there and try my best.

'But when I came out of the tunnel and saw all the cameras were pointed at me I realised I must be running pretty well. So I just kept on talking to myself and running and then someone yelled out and told me I was the first lady.'

Switching her engine into overdrive, Toh powered away over the final kilometres and crossed the finishing line out front and alone.

'I started running in 1981 but before that I was never a runner in my life,' she said. 'I was working then for the Singapore air force and they organised a lot of races so I just started taking part - and then I started winning.

'From there I started to become a national runner, 5,000 metres, 10,000 metres and then marathon. Once you start it is very hard to stop.'

Asked what she thought was the difference this year, Toh put it down in one word - determination.

'I never thought I would come in first but if you try your best and keep running anything can happen,' she said. 'If you do that - if you keep trying your best - sometimes you just have days like today where everything goes right and you end up winning.'

She also pointed to a change in tactics, brought about simply through the way she had been training.

'I was quite worried about my training because I have been training alone recently,' she said. 'When you do that you don't work on running people down. So I guess I was lucky today that I found myself out in front. I told my husband that I had to get out in front or I wouldn't know what to do. And it worked.'

And while most of the attention after yesterday's race was focused on Toh, she couldn't leave without pointing to a man sitting nearby with a trophy of his own. Husband Lee Kar-lun picked up the men's half-marathon masters two section with a time of 1:18:21 but was happy to stay in the shadows while his wife accepted the accolades.

'Of course I am very happy that I won,' he said. 'But the attention should go to her.'