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National runner Jeevaneesh Soundararajah breaks Soh Rui Yong’s 2.4km record at Pocari Sweat run

SINGAPORE — The national record for running 2.4km held by Singapore's top marathoner was broken on Saturday (Jan 8) night in a widely publicised race that saw him finish in third place. 

National runner Jeevaneesh Soundararajah breaks Soh Rui Yong’s 2.4km record at Pocari Sweat run

(From right) National runner Jeevaneesh Soundararajah, marathoner Soh Rui Yong and Gurkha Subas Gurung at the Pocari Sweat 2.4km challenge on Jan 8, 2022.

  • National 1,500m runner Jeevaneesh Soundararajah won with a time of 6min 52.97sec, besting the record set last September by Soh Rui Yong
  • Soh, Singapore’s top marathoner, came in third after Gurkha Subas Gurung
  • Soh had thrown down an open challenge in response to brickbats who disputed his declaration of being the first Singaporean to run 2.4km under seven minutes

SINGAPORE — The national record for running 2.4km held by Singapore's top marathoner was broken on Saturday (Jan 8) night in a widely publicised race that saw him finish in third place. 

The top three runners at the Pocari Sweat Run came in under seven minutes, a feat said never to have been broken — at least officially — by any Singaporean until late last year by two-time SEA Games marathon gold medallist Soh Rui Yong.

National 1,500m runner Jeevaneesh Soundararajah, 28, won with a time of 6min 52.97sec, besting the 6min 53.18sec set by Soh. 

Gurkha Subas Gurung, 25, came in second with 6min 54.53sec, tailed closely by Soh, 30, with 6min 55.50sec. 

Some 200 runners had signed up for Saturday’s twice-postponed race, which was co-organised by sports beverage brand Pocari Sweat and Singapore Athletics (SA), the national governing body for athletics.

Participants ran in groups of up to five per session to comply with safe management measures, though none of the runners in the earlier sessions completed the race in under seven minutes.

Speaking after the race at the Home of Athletics track in Kallang, Jeevaneesh said: “Training wise, in the past few months until now, I felt I could (break the record).

“In the last 100m… I was just pushing through and thankfully it was just one second under.”

While Soh has lost his 2.4km record, he still holds the national record for the 5,000m, 10,000m, half-marathon and marathon distances.

“I honestly had no idea where I would come in,” said Soh after the race. “I’ve only been back training for two plus weeks after taking a break after December’s Valencia marathon. I managed to set the national record there but my body was quite exhausted from that.”

He said that during training, he thought that Jeevaneesh — who used to pace him in his past races — had the best chance of breaking his 2.4km record. 

Jeevaneesh, who is also an engineer at a solar power firm, had represented Singapore in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games for the 5,000m category.

“So big congratulations to Jeevaneesh. I think this is the first time he set a national record, and hopefully the first of many," added Soh.

The other runners in Soh's session — which was the last of the day — were Ethan Yap, who came in at 7min 09.09sec and national runner Thiruben Thana Rajan who dropped out of the race after pacing the pack in the starting laps.

To drum up publicity for the mass participation event, Pocari Sweat had arranged an event last September for Soh to see how fast he could complete the distance.

That event was officiated by SA and Soh was declared the national record holder for the 2.4km distance.

The 2.4km, while not featured in major sporting athletic events, is a familiar distance for many who grew up in Singapore who would have had to run it as part of fitness tests in school or during national service.

After the event, Soh declared in a Facebook post that he was the first Singaporean man to run 2.4km in under seven minutes, drawing several brickbats who commented that they knew of army mates or commando soldiers who could run faster.

In response, Soh threw down an open challenge and offered S$700 and 700 bottles of Pocari Sweat — paid for by himself — to any Singaporean who could finish the Pocari Sweat 2.4km Challenge in under seven minutes.

“At the end of the day, it’s easy to make extraordinary claims without proof. Let’s settle the debate once and for all,” Soh said then.

Several companies jumped on the bandwagon to add to the prize pot, which included more than S$3,000 cash, 700 packets of chicken rice, Bitcoin and a year’s supply of toilet paper.

On Saturday, dozens of spectators, including Gurung’s Gurkha contingent mates, turned up to cheer the runners from behind the gates to the Home of Athletics as the venue had a cap as part of safe management measures.

Asked about his loss to Gurung, Soh said that he had intentionally invited the elite soldier from Nepal to take part to add to the competition and had even negotiated with sponsors to offer prizes for non-Singaporeans.

“I wanted to add a bit of competition because winning all the time is boring,” he joked. 

“He should come and train with us because I believe that he has the potential to break Nepalese records and maybe represent Nepal in the Asian Games, but he will need a strong training group which he doesn’t quite have at the moment.”

Gurung, who holds the 2.4km record for the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) Gurkha Contingent, declined comment after the race saying he needed clearance from SPF to speak to the media.

In an emailed statement from the SPF on Monday, Gurung said that he felt happy and accomplished to achieve a new personal best.

“I run because it makes me happy, and because it is an activity that keeps me mentally and physically fit. Races like this allow me to test my own limits. I don’t run to compare with other people," he said in response to TODAY's question on whether he was glad to have beaten Soh, who invited him to the race. 

Another 200-odd runners have signed up for Sunday’s race, including women’s 2.4km national record holder Vanessa Lee who completed with a time of 7min 59.69sec last September.

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