Athlete-Coach Inspiration: An Interview with Fabian Williams
Fabian Williams is currently Head Coach of Fabian Williams Coaching Concepts (FWCC) with an International Association of Athletes Federation (IAAF) Level 1, Australian Track & Field Coaches Association Level I, II, III & IV coaching certifications. It doesn’t stop there. His journey as an athlete prior to coaching traces back more than two decades. Indeed, it’s one that deserves recognition and undoubted respect. RunSociety was fortunate to hit him up to find out more about the distance he’s come hitherto. The following are excerpts from our exclusive interview with the athlete-coach:
You've been better known around running circles as the 2008 Sundown Ultra Marathon champ, and more recently, part of the winning duo that topped the Men's Ultra category at the SAFRA AVventura cross-terrain race. Tell us more about your other achievements as an athlete.
As some would know me as the inaugural Sundown Ultra Marathon Champion in 2008, I have been racing competitively for some time. Part of my achievements include:
- 1st Position (Ultra Men Category) in SAFRA AVventura 2012
- 1st Position (Open Mixed Category) in SIM Xtreme Trail 3 2012
- 3rd Position (Men Open Category) in ACE Adventure Challenge 2011
- 1st Position (Men Masters Category) SAFSA Cross Country in 2011
- 1st Position (Men Open Team Category) in SAFSA Cross Country 2011
- 1st Position (Men Masters Category) in SOTF Cross Country 2011
- 1st Position (Men Open Team Category) in SOTF Cross Country 2011
- 2nd Position (Lover's Challenge Category) in NTU X-Physique 2010
- 1st Position (Lover's Challenge Category) in NTU X-Physique 2009
- 14th Position (1st Singaporean) [Half Marathon Category] in Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2009
- 1st Position (Ultra Marathon Category) in Sundown Marathon 2008
- 1st Position (Men Open Category) in People Association Five Mountain Challenge 2006
- 1st Singaporean (Full Marathon Category) in Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2006
- 3rd Singaporean (Full Marathon Category) in Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2005
- 5th Position (Team Category) in Hong Kong Trailwalker 2002
- 2nd Position (Team Category) in Hong Kong Trailwalker 2001
When did you first get serious into competitive running? How did it come about?
I have been running since the age of 15, but serious running came only in 2005. I met four people who changed my life. The first one is my colleague, Alson Ooi. After I had coached the first commando AHM (Army Half Marathon) team in history to victory, this colleague of mine asked me why I did not race as part of the team. I diligently replied that I chose to coach and that if I coached, I would give 100 percent as a coach but if I were to be running in the team as well, I might not. However, he simply laughed at me with the words I would never ever forget, "Aiya you're a has been la so accept it, now just stick to the easy part – coach young blood.” He never knew but those words pierced right through and that’s the day I decided to put on my racing shoes again.
The second would be Colonel Ang Yau Choon. He is my first awesome boss at that time during my Military career period. He taught me about achieving greatness and not compromising myself by setting limits. He greatly supported me and nurtured me in my pursuit of "finding" myself through running.
The third person is my first manager at adidas. He talent spotted me when I was adventure racing for Commando under the Salomon banner back in 2004 and 2005. He realised that my performance and results were limited by my team and when he went on to adidas he approached me and urged me to consider competing as an individual. He basically put his neck on the line to fight for my sponsorship for a newbie like me and till today, I’ve stayed loyal to the brand ‘cos they took me on when I was a nobody.
Lastly, the fourth person is Mr Rameshon – my Training buddy in 2005. Mr Ram and I raced against each other in the HK ultra series back in 2001, and he approached me during a race to have a chat. Having found out I was considering training for a marathon, he being whom I call the Marathon Maestro, fully encouraged me to take it up seriously. He welcomed me into his training group which was his bunch of Chinese High athletes during that period and the rest is history.
There are those that "burn out" after a couple of years. Speaking about keeping that interest and passion sustainable, what's your secret?
As an athlete, it wasn’t as smooth sailing all the time. There are those that "burn out" after a couple of years. However, what kept that interest and passion sustainable was through coaching. Coaching allowed me to explore the science and art behind running and racing. It allowed me to study the path I had taken as an athlete and track my progression and regression. Also, meeting great people along the way, and forging a path for myself, learning from the best and devising my own style of coaching. I realised that enjoying the race rather than being fixated on winning makes things easier too.
You're now the full-time Head Coach of FWCC. We're curious about the centre's approach to athlete development. Care to share?
Simple. Think, Share, Train – coaching is an ever evolving concept. We make it a point to always listen and analyse a new training method prior to judgement. We strive to perfect it with the wholesome approach and we always openly share with whoever knocks on our door. I always believe that we should give an athlete an opportunity to shine. I was given mine and now it’s a pay it forward process.
As a mentor to aspiring talent, what is it about your job that you find most fulfilling?
When I see my kids smile at the end; the joy on their faces when they have performed better; or when they succeeded; or even in cases when they fail but stand up and fight on. I know I’m making a difference in the lives of these kids/adults who never realised their hidden potential.
We understand you run a non-profit movement called Run to Inspire out of FWCC. Why the decision to embark on this project?
Run to Inspire started back in 2006 when I was nursing an injury and my sponsor, adidas, together with Beyond Social Services came together for a project where we trained teenagers between the ages of 13 to 17 and prepared them for MILK Run 2006. Within a short span of three months for training, their performance improved by leaps and bounds and out of the 24 teenagers whom I coached, 18 came back with medals. That sense of achievement was tremendous as a coach, but what was more rewarding is that I managed to get these teenagers to realise that they could achieve big things in life if they put their heart to it.
After the adidas-Beyond project ended, I "adopted" the kids under my own wing and started Team RedsXtreme so that they had a racing team identity. And eventually when I started FWCC, I continued the project – it’s our way of giving back.
Having gone back into competitive racing lately – notably adventure racing, what's your take on trail and road running?
They both have their pros and cons, and like what I say always, I preach the wholesome training approach. You need to do both to be a "total" athlete. Too much of one will only make you imbalanced.
If you have to point out ONE misconception about training that's widespread across Singapore, what would it be?
Strength and psychomotor conditioning is not important while training for any races.
Knee injuries are becoming increasingly prevalent among runners. As an athlete and coach, how can it be prevented?
A proper and well balanced training programme; proper form and sufficient rest; and nutrition.
Are there any personal beliefs you'd like to advocate to runners at large?
Last but not least, I would encourage all athletes out there to “Think. Share. Train.” and always remember you're STRONGER than you think you are.