In tower running, athletes run up tall, manmade structures such as the internal stairways of skyscrapers. Soh Wai Ching is Malaysia’s only tower runner with a world ranking. He may not be a household name yet, but he will be soon.
The 25-year-old from Selayang has always been competitive. During his national service, he expressed his ambition to represent Malaysia in the 5,000m and 10,000m events. Within a few years, his dream came true. During his undergraduate days, reading Sports Science at Universiti Malaya, he represented the country twice: first at the Asean University Games in Singapore in August 2016, and later at Naypyidaw in Myanmar, in August 2018.
He says the journey to the top is tough but offers words of encouragement to Malaysians.
“Believe in yourself,” he said. “It’s not an easy path to tread, but achieving your dreams is possible if you have a strong will and are mentally tough.
“There will be sacrifices, like having to spend your savings and prize money on airline tickets and accommodation. The keys to my success are self-belief and consistency.”
He said he was happy to be Asia’s best tower runner, but that the path to becoming a national athlete was tough as well.
So far, he said, the youth and sports ministry had sent him a letter of appreciation.
“But in order to be recognised as a national athlete, I need to belong to an appropriate sporting association.
“To start a national sporting association, you need to have at least six or seven state sports associations. I am the only Malaysian tower runner with a world ranking.”
Soh undergoes a rigorous training regime, with three sessions a day, seven days a week. The morning session runs from 6.30am to 11.30am, the afternoon from noon to 5pm and the evening from 6pm to 11pm.
His diet consists of 70% carbohydrates, 20% protein and 10% fats.
“I enjoy life as a full-time athlete and am preparing for overseas competitions so that I can achieve my goal of being the number one tower runner in the world,” he said.
He is pragmatic about the apparent lack of government support and sanguine about his lack of networking skills, thanking those who have supported him nonetheless.
Preparing for a competition costs money, but Soh comes up with his own proposals which he uses when approaching corporations.
He also highlighted the lack of awareness about tower running in Malaysia, saying the sport is still up and coming in the country.
On March 13, he will compete in the fifth running of La Verticale De La Tour Eiffel as the only Asian to qualify in the Elite Men’s Category.
“I am aiming to be in the top five,” he said, adding that he hoped the government would recognise him as a national athlete.
“But I am not asking for funding from them,” he is quick to add.
Last year, he said, Universiti Malaya part-sponsored his trip to run up the Eiffel Tower.
“This time, I will be on my own.”
Soh’s idol is British track athlete Mo Farrah, whom he says has a strong sense of self-belief and is a hard worker.
“I also admire Farrah’s fighting spirit and his desire to achieve what he wants. My next goal is to be ranked World No. 3 in tower-running by the end of 2019.”
His advice to Malaysian youth is simple.
“Sports taught me how to be a strong self-believer. Running instilled in me values like discipline and consistency. You must possess the spirit of giving everything to your aspirations, and the ability to channel your energy into it. The most important part is to be healthy all the time.
“If you realise that you have no chance to become the best in your sport, pick another one. Who knows, you might be good at it and become the next world champion in that particular sport. Keep trying and give your best!”