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Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Shaun Goh

Be inspired by the success stories of fitness influencers, celebrities, models and trainers in Singapore

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week Shaun Goh is an information security analyst.
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week Shaun Goh is an information security analyst. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Life goes beyond the digits on the scale and your body is capable of so much more! Yahoo’s #Fitspo of the Week series is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. Have someone to recommend? Hit Cheryl up on Instagram or Facebook!

Name: Shaun Goh (@lilardtime0)

Age: 26

Height: 1.72m

Weight: 62kg

Occupation: Information Security Analyst

Status: Single

Food: Usually oats for breakfast, Ban Mian for lunch, dinner is not fixed.

Exercise: I run every day – Track workouts on Mondays and Thursdays, my longest run on Saturdays, and slower easy paced runs on the rest of the days.

Q: You played basketball competitively from primary school to junior college. How did you get into basketball?

A: My older brother introduced me to basketball. He would take me to the nearby basketball court on Saturdays to play and also allowed me to play this online basketball game ‘NBA Live’ on his PC.

The combination of these experiences sparked my passion for the sport at an early age. I started playing competitive basketball in primary school and continued to JC, so that’s over a decade of being part of the sport.

I was always anxiously waiting for school to end so I could rush down to the court to play, and we often played until the security guards chased us out when they had to close the school gates.

What are some of the highlights of your basketball journey?

Although I played organised basketball for many years, I sadly didn’t win a lot of games. It wasn’t until my second year of JC that I felt most self-assured in my abilities and had great chemistry with my teammates. Despite not advancing far in the tournament, we engaged in many thrilling games, and in that particular year, I experienced the most joy in playing competitive basketball.

Initially, I thought I would stop playing competitive basketball after JC, but I continued playing in my first year of university for outside clubs. Unfortunately, a series of painful ankle injuries made me decide it was time to hang it up for good, and I shifted my focus fully to running. I occasionally still play recreational basketball with friends.

Shaun's passion for running began when he was in the Naval Diving Unit during his NS days.
Shaun's passion for running began when he was in the Naval Diving Unit during his NS days. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

How did you get more involved in running?

I started getting more involved in running when I was in the Naval Diving Unit during National Service (NS) from 2016 to 2017. Being good at endurance running and swimming were significant advantages when it came to making it through the course. I was able to excel more in the running evolutions, and this made me feel more confident about myself at the time.

After finishing our trainee course, we were posted to a stay-in unit, which meant we had to stay overnight in camp during the week. During our nights out, there was nothing much to do, so I started running in camp to pass the time. As I ran more and became more ‘run fit’, I started enjoying my runs a lot more, especially longer-distance runs. Eventually, I started venturing outside of camp to run.

I ran my first and second marathons at Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) in 2016 and 2017. Running a marathon was something we had on our bucket list, and in NS, my army mates and I thought that we were likely to be in the prime shape of our lives, so there was no better time to go for it.

In my first one, I made it to 30 km feeling surprisingly decent timing. Unfortunately, at the time, I was not aware of the importance of fuelling during the race. So inevitably, I hit the wall and cramped very badly in the last 10km, and I had to limp across the finish line.

In my second one, I tried taking gels early in the race to solve my fuelling issues. However, I didn’t practise using these gels during my training, so I ended up with GI issues halfway through the race and things went downhill shortly after. Amazingly, I finished both marathons with almost an identical time of just over four hours.

My most recent participation was in the half-marathon category last year. I signed up to pace my friend for her run. As many who had participated in last year’s edition remember, there was over an hour delay due to rain and lightning, making it quite a memorable experience. As I was not in ‘race’ mode for this run, I was able to take in the sights and sounds of the run more, but I was also quite anxious to make sure I kept up the right pacing for my friend. Although we did not manage to hit our goal, overall, it still was a good experience putting up a good effort and catching up with friends post-run.

This year will be the year I am racing competitively and it will be a unique experience compared to my previous attempts, so I’m very looking forward to toeing the start line.

When did you start to become more competitive with running?

I started to take running more seriously when I entered university in 2018. I joined my first organised running club, the NUS cross country team, where I was fortunate enough to connect with a wonderful group of running mates, some of whom I still run with today. It was also my first introduction to what a structured training programme looked like.

During my first year, I participated in the SUNIG Road Race trials. It was a very memorable experience as towards the end of the race, I was part of a group of four runners fighting to qualify for the final three spots in the SUNIG team. By some miracle, I managed to qualify as the last runner in a very tightly contested finish. The thrill and adrenaline of competition in that trial lit a fire in me to pursue running more seriously.

What are some of the highlights of your running journey so far?

Breaking seven minutes at the 2.4km Pocari Sweat Challenge last year was one of my biggest highlights. The idea of breaking seven minutes had always seemed surreal, and I didn’t think at the time I could do so. But in the heat of competition, I was able to have the “race of my life” to break this elusive barrier.

Qualifying for my first SEA Games in the 10,000m event was a huge milestone as well. For the longest time since I started running, I’ve only really focused on personal timing goals. Qualifying for the SEA Games had never crossed my mind, as it felt like a goal too lofty to even dream about.

Shaun broke the seven-minute barrier in the 2.4km run at the Pocari Sweat Challenge event last year.
Shaun broke the seven-minute barrier in the 2.4km run at the Pocari Sweat Challenge event last year. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

So, when the announcement came out that I had qualified for the squad, the feeling was really overwhelming. The achievement also felt like a tribute to the group of friends who believed in me and with whom I’ve trained for the past two years. As a self-coached athlete, I credit a lot of my personal achievements to my training mates, who keep me accountable and help me get through the tough training every week.

A more personal goal I was super proud of was breaking 16 minutes for the 5,000m event on the track during the SA All Comers 3 last year. The 5,000m on the track is my favourite track distance and I had spent many nights dreaming of the day I would be able to break this huge barrier. I had made an initial attempt earlier in the year but was not able to get the job done. To be able to try again and finally achieve it was a great feeling.

Most recently, a big highlight was breaking the 70-minute barrier at the Valencia Half Marathon. I had an amazing racing experience, being able to run in perfect running conditions with so many fast runners in the race. After the race, I found out that I was only the third Singaporean to have achieved this feat, which made the achievement even sweeter. The cherry on top was that my fellow teammate, Soh Rui Yong, had broken the national record by one second in that same race. It truly capped off the trip on a high, as we were both able to achieve our individual targets.

What are your goals now?

My goal in the short term would be to place well at the upcoming SCSM half-marathon national championships. Running in the low-70 minute range would be a good target to strive for, and hopefully, that will be enough against this year’s strong field.

Next year, my focus will be shifted back to the track, as I aim to improve on my 5,000m and 10,000m personal best timings. The goal would be to qualify for the 2025 SEA Games in Bangkok. I’m still a way away from the qualifying mark, so my goal now is to narrow that gap as much as possible, and hopefully be ready to put up a solid bid when the qualifying window opens next year.

How do you balance your training with your work and personal life?

I’m quite fortunate my current job allows me to have a fixed schedule as my work hours are fixed, so this makes it easy to keep consistent with my training plans every week. I’m also blessed to have a manager that supports my running life outside of work.

There are periods where work becomes very hectic and I feel mentally drained at the end of workdays, and during those days I would rather just take a nap instead of going for training. But what gets me to train each week is the strong support system of teammates and friends who keep me accountable.

Have you experienced any incidents that made you feel insecure about yourself?

When I was in secondary school and part of the school basketball CCA, I participated in a camp organised by my basketball coach back then. The camp was an overnight, multi-day camp that was meant to improve our mental resilience by pushing us both mentally and physically to our limits.

We went through a very gruelling training day and night during this camp. There was a lot of running around, scolding and being woken up in the middle of the night for more physical training. To be honest, we were not even aware of the time of day during the camp, as they kept our phones or watches. Our coach also messed with the wall clocks to confuse our body clock.

Shaun is aiming to qualify for representing Singapore at the 2025 SEA Games in Bangkok.
Shaun is aiming to qualify for representing Singapore at the 2025 SEA Games in Bangkok. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

One night we were in the middle of doing various tough physical exercises and there was an exercise that involved a lot of teamwork (not elaborating on it as it was a dangerous exercise). I was pushed way beyond my physical limits and was not able to complete the challenge.

I was mentally broken after that challenge and my coach challenged me face-to-face whether I wanted to continue facing the challenges with my team or go home. I’ll never forget the feelings I felt during that confrontation, it made me feel like I could not give up on my teammates and it lit a fire in me to carry on. I had tears in my eyes and I chose to carry on and finish the camp with my teammates. I still look back to that night as a mental callous whenever I’m going through tough times.

When did you feel the least confident about yourself?

At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was nursing a serious ankle injury and was unable to run. Out of boredom, I started binge eating. It was not until I stepped on the weighing scale that I realised I had gained about 10kg in a relatively short period. My mental health was in a very bad place with regard to my body confidence.

None of my friends knew this at the time as we were all cooped up at home in isolation. When my ankle injury finally started to improve and the restrictions started to ease, I began running again. The first few weeks of getting back into running were very arduous, but once I found a routine, I shed the weight pretty quickly. The entire ordeal made me appreciate how important running was in keeping my life in balance, both physically and mentally.

Did you ever struggle with your body?

I have always felt a bit chubby growing up, from secondary school until university.

I was also in denial, telling people I did not care about how I looked but inside I was very self-conscious. You will never see me without a shirt for my runs. I believe this all stems from comparing with others, and it's especially worse nowadays with social media.

Are you satisfied with your body now?

I feel much more confident with my body now than before. I am focused on cleaning up my diet this year and it has definitely helped me shed some unnecessary weight.

There are still days when I do not feel fully comfortable in my skin; it is definitely still a work in progress.

Do you get any comments about your body?

I used to always get comments about being on the slightly heavier side as a runner. People were surprised I was able to run as fast while not having the stereotypical (skinny/lean) build that most faster runners have. It always somehow felt like a back-handed compliment.

I know people would normally say they will not change anything about themselves, but if I could, I would still want to be a bit leaner, both for athletic performance and body confidence.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Shaun Goh (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Shaun Goh (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)