In the realm of ultramarathon running, every kilometer conquered isn’t merely a distance; it’s a saga of human endurance and a testimony to what legs and hearts can achieve when they run in unison.
Singapore’s Joshua Toh, a 46-year-old Lieutenant Colonel from the SAF’s Special Operations Task Force, epitomised this spirit in the prestigious Backyard Ultra marathon held in Tennessee, USA on 21 October.
In this Article
Joshua Toh: Setting the Stage
After shattering Singapore’s record last year by running around 340km in over 50 hours, Toh was ready to challenge the crème de la crème of ultramarathoners at the global level.
His odyssey led him to the rugged terrains of Tennessee, where he didn’t merely run; he raced against the world’s elite, marking a significant chapter in Singapore’s ultramarathon narrative.
The answer lay across the undulating terrains of Tennessee which posed challenges a far cry from the flat, hard surface of Singapore, as Toh noted, “in Tennessee, it was an undulating terrain in a trail condition where I had to climb up slopes as part of my route.”
Completing an awe-inspiring 480km, equivalent to running from Changi Airport to Woodlands Checkpoint 11 times, Toh clinched the 22nd position among 75 seasoned runners. His journey wasn’t merely about covering distances; it was about overcoming the rugged terrains, the unpredictable weather, and self-doubt.
As Toh embarked on this formidable challenge, the routine of the race became a rhythm of resilience. “So when the race started, I went through every loop, doing the same thing over and over again. And that was the thing that kept me going,” he reminisced.
The arena of the Backyard Ultra Individual World Championships was not for the faint of heart. Mr. Joshua Toh was among 75 national champions, each having earned their spot in this global face-off. Participants were to consecutively run 6.7km laps at the start of every hour, with failure to return before the hour, or choosing not to start the next lap resulting in elimination.
This contest of endurance transcended geographical boundaries as it adopted a “satellite competition” format, where each participating nation held its own race concurrently. This was the stage where Mr. Joshua Toh shattered Singapore’s record, running 51 of the 6.7km loops over three days.
In Tennessee, he furthered his legacy by completing 72 loops over the same duration, demonstrating a marked improvement from his previous endeavor.
“Last year I did 51 loops and this year I finished with 72. That’s 21 loops more, so I will say I’m definitely very happy with the result,” he told TODAY.
The race demanded unwavering focus, especially on the unpredictable trails of Tennessee. As Toh mentioned, “It means at all times you have to be very, very focused on looking at the trail because if you just lose a little bit of focus, you will trip and fall, and so many people tripped and fell in the race.”
Discovering the Uncharted
Each lap in the race was a voyage into the unknown, a test of one’s mental and physical endurance. The format of the race, where competitors run until they can’t anymore, was where Toh found his calling.
He shared, “Because in this race, you run until you can’t, or if you are so strong, then you end up being the last man standing.”
Preparation: The Bedrock of Success
The meticulous 10-month long preparation was not just about physical training; it was about cultivating a mental resolve strong enough to face the unforeseeable challenges that lay ahead.
The essence of thorough preparation was summed up by Joshua Toh when he advised budding runners,
You will definitely run into a stage where your mental resolve is challenged, so you must know what inspires you and motivates you.Singapore Ultramarathoner Joshua Toh
The Singaporean ultramarathoner also highlighted the pivotal role of nutrition in a runner’s performance.
“Nutrition is very important, too, because you can be the fittest you can be, but over the span of two or three days, if you never take in enough energy, your body’s just not going to function optimally and eventually, you will burn out or just crash,” he shared.
The Road Ahead
With the race concluded, a sense of relief and accomplishment envelops Joshua Toh. The tiresome yet rewarding journey has come to a pause, allowing him to bask in the glory of his achievement before gearing up for the next challenge.
With eyes set on the upcoming three-day, 180km race in Hong Kong in January 2024, Toh’s narrative is a testament to his unwavering passion for running.
His story is an embodiment of the ethos – no finish line is too far for those fueled by passion and preparedness.
Trailblazing Beyond the Finish Line
Joshua Toh’s narrative echoes far beyond the rugged trails of Tennessee. His tale is a clarion call to aspiring ultramarathoners and seasoned runners alike, beckoning them towards the allure of the unchartered terrains waiting to be conquered.
The undying spark of pursuing one’s passion, the camaraderie among competitors, and the ecstasy of defying one’s own limits – every facet of his journey exemplifies the quintessence of ultramarathon running.
As we revel in the inspiring chronicle of Joshua Toh, the allure of ultramarathon running beckons many to explore this demanding yet rewarding frontier.
The quest begins with the first step, yet the preparation to undertake such a venture is a journey in itself.
Mastering the art and science of ultramarathon running demands a blend of relentless training, nutritional vigilance, and mental fortitude.
As we delve into the intricacies on how to train for an ultramarathon, we unravel a regime that not only prepares the body but also fortifies the mind to embrace the unyielding path that lies ahead, fostering a breed of runners ready to etch their tales on the endless trails of endurance.
Featured Photo Credit: Joshua Teo