SingaporeMotherhood | Family Fun

July 2015

Catching up with Ashley Liew!

Most athletes make the headlines for setting new games records, beating their personal bests, or bagging an astounding medal haul. One man stood out from the crowd and was thrust into the limelight at the recent SEA Games hosted by Singapore for a completely different reason – selflessly sacrificing his lead during a marathon. 28-year-old Ashley Liew was lauded by Singaporeans from all walks of life for displaying stellar sportsmanship and making us all proud, despite not picking up a medal. I caught up with the humble marathoner who shared with me his sporting experiences and future endeavours.


Ashley, who holds a degree in Political Science & Finance from the Singapore Management University (SMU), is currently pursuing his post-graduate studies at Sherman College of Chiropractic based in South Carolina, USA. He had taken a three month long break to represent his homeland in the 2015 SEA Games. Why the jump from an arts based course to a medical one? Ashley had attended a chiropractic talk back in 2010 and that had vastly influence his choice; he realised that working in the healthcare industry would allow him to help and serve people on a personal basis, impacting their lives in a significant manner. He added that it means a lot to him to be able to aid people and that it provides him with a sense of satisfaction.

Photo credit: Ashley LiewPhoto credit: Ashley Liew

Contrary to the expectations of many, myself included, Ashley’s interest in running was not one that has been with him since his childhood years. In fact, he initially picked up running for the sole purpose of losing weight – yes, as hard as it is to believe, the lean sportsman was once obese in his teens! The decision to embark on running was made when he was in Junior College. Attempting to gain some self-esteem was also on his agenda when that life-changing decision came about. Ashley had also gotten himself involved in the canoeing and dragon boat teams of his Junior College. He went on to complete his maiden marathon in 2004, at the end of his second year in Junior College, with his schoolmates.

Ashley was merely running for the sake of personal satisfaction for a span of four years. His shift to the competitive realm came in December 2008 when he met his coach, Mr. Murugiah Rameshon. In less than a year, his coach had brought him from being outside of the league of top one hundred Singaporean marathoners to the status of second-ranked Singapore marathoner. Since then, Ashley had never looked back and has gone on to participate in numerous marathons around the globe, doing Singapore proud. At the recent 2015 SEA Games, he made those unaware of his sporting presence sit up and take notice of him through a gesture which not many would have done. I had some burning questions that needed to be addressed for the admirable athlete!

Q: What was running through your mind the moment you realised that you had lost sight of your competitors during the marathon?

A: As I was making a turn, I noticed that I was the only one going the right way. Everyone else was going straight down instead of making a U-turn. My first thought was, “Am I going the wrong way?” But I knew all along, and it was also clear in the route map, that that was the lamp-post we had to turn at. I took a few steps and when I looked back, the marshalls were trying to herd the lost runners. It took a while for the message to go through as they were all running very fast and some of them do not speak English.

Photo credit: ST Photo - Chong Jun LiangPhoto credit: ST Photo – Chong Jun Liang

Q: Did you not at all consider surging ahead and winning the marathon?

A: Everything was happening very quickly – it all came down to split second decisions. I could have maintained my pace or have made a true break for it but I felt that it wouldn’t be fair to take advantage of the situation. I thought, in the spirit of fairness, why not just slow down and let everyone resume their previous order and the race can begin proper again. It was almost instinct. I didn’t even have to think much to slow down.

Q: You never gave up during the marathon, despite two hamstring injuries. What made you go on?

A: It wasn’t so much pain – it was one of those pulls which just don’t let you move. I was able to start walking after a few minutes. That day was my mum’s birthday. I thought, if the pros outweigh the cons, why not just finish the race and see how it goes.

Q: Who or what remains as a constant source of inspiration for you?

A: Since 2010, it’s been my mum. She passed away that year. Since then, I have appreciated how blessed I am to be healthy, to be able to run and to be able to push myself to the limit. Not everyone is given the opportunity to do so. So, a lot of my running is actually in dedication to my mother.

Q: What advice would you like to impart to young children who are aspiring athletes?

A: Don’t get too caught up with results and timings – it is actually counter-productive. It is a lot more important to have fun and to develop psychomotor skills. A lot of kids get burnt out by the time they hit university-going age because they push themselves too much, physically and mentally. So, just take it one step at a time – do not be too result-oriented. Also, always distinguish between targets and goals. Targets are achievements which you desire, such as timings and positions. I try to focus more on goals, on who I want to be, and what I aspire to be as a person. Focus more on the process of growth – running is about growth, as is life itself.

Photo credit: Team Young NTUC Earth RunnersPhoto credit: Team Young NTUC Earth Runners

Q: What do you think are some characteristics a good young athlete should possess?

A: A good athlete should have humility, because there is no need to shout out about our achievements. If we do that, we are actually just expanding our own energy which we should really be using on ourselves instead. Also, develop the tenacity to get past challenges!

Q: How did you balance sports and academics? Were your sacrifices worth it?

A: Focus 100% on what you are doing – if it’s time to train, don’t think about studying, and vice versa. I take it upon myself to not get distracted. I intentionally don’t have a television set in my apartment so that I won’t get distracted. Put aside your laptop and smartphone when you are studying. This doesn’t just applying to studying alone – even when spending time with the family, some of us are too wired up and not in the moment. We need to bring that physical connection back so that life would be more fulfilling. My sacrifices were definitely worth it – no regrets at all!

Q: What was your lowest moment as a sportsman and how did you get over it?

A: It was in 2011, at the end of the Singapore Marathon. There had been high hopes and expectations for a good finish for me. It made sense because my performance that year had been good. I had set a personal best. But it was the worst race of my life – I finished as the seventh Singaporean. The aftermath was tough, dealing with people who were doubting me and criticising my training methods and my coach. But I told myself, this is just one bad race – everyone has a bad race. The challenge was to try and recognise what went wrong and fix things. In February 2012, I ran my personal best in a marathon in Hong Kong. I just let my legs do the talking.

Q: What advice do you have for kids who wish to pursue a sporting career in Singapore?

A: A full-time career in sports is feasible but everyone’s situation is different. However, if you have the opportunity to pursue one, then go for it! Weigh the pros and cons, sit down and discuss it with your parents since they are going to be funding your training. If everyone is on the same page, and your heart tells you to go for it, then do so. The emphasis on sports is improving here in Singapore. Many families were coming down to watch the recent SEA Games and that’s very encouraging!

Q: Complete the sentence, “Winning isn’t everything because…”

A: Your character matters a lot more.

Photo credit: Team Young NTUC Earth RunnersPhoto credit: Team Young NTUC Earth Runners

Spoken like a true sportsman, Ashley! Prior to his departure for USA, Ashley was present at One Marina Boulevard on 27 June 2015 to deliver a talk (featured above) to Team Young NTUC Earth Runners. It is a group formed by passionate runners who aim to foster a supportive attitude among the public towards a greener tomorrow. The group organises regular running clinics which equips its members with useful running tips, followed by training sessions. This is a running group driving the social cause to promote green initiatives through running. Ashley’s talk addressed health, chiropractic and how it can help everyone maximise their athletic potential, as well as his recent experience at the SEA Games.

We wish Ashley Liew all the success in his future endeavours!

For more information on Team Young NTUC Earth Runners, click here.

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Catching up with Ashley Liew!