In 2016, Ruth Ting Xian Xian became the youngest Malaysian finisher of IRONMAN Malaysia in Langkawi. Five years later, the Sepang-raised Ruth has once again showed tenacity in excelling academically too. Turning 25 years old in this year, the new medical graduate is currently waiting to be commissioned as a second lieutenant army officer in August.

Few millennials can proudly attest to such all-round achievements. Therefore, ToughAsia had to sneak in to learn some ‘pro tips’ from this army house officer to-be, Ruth Ting.

ToughASIA: How, when and why did you get involved in triathlon?

Ruth: Since primary school, I had always wanted to emulate my older sister Rachel’s performance in sports. I did taekwando and was also also active in track and field. I had never ventured beyond 5km runs until I started my medical degree at National Defence University of Malaysia (UPNM) in Kuala Lumpur..

I had never thought of registering in any sports club or team until my senior invited me to join Kelab Sukan Lasak (KSL), a club which participates in all sorts of races such as triathlon, duathlon, swimathon, aquathlon, half and full marathons. It reignited my desire to do well in sports as I am surrounded by supportive people around me.

Initially, I had doubts that I could complete long distance races. But once I got started on my triathlon journey, I got passionately involved in all its three disciplines.

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ToughASIA: Where are your favourite training locations?

Ruth: My favourite running locations are all around Kuala Lumpur. One of them is within University of Malaya, where it has some “deadly” rolling hills, less traffic and safe at night too; it is definitely a perfect place to train. Elsewhere, Bukit Mas at Melawati, Perdana Botanical Garden and of course, the hilly routes in the army campus – Kem Sg. Besi.

ToughASIA: How often do you run?

Ruth: I run every other day, alternating with lifting weights in the gym. Thus, I have to devise my own weekly training plan systemically, which includes both cardio and strength regimes. Both these routines really worked synergistically in bodyshaping.

As we all know, runners not only have to improve their endurance and lactate thresholds but also to work on different groups of muscles. These will produce speed, provide a good and proper and upright running posture and minimise risks of getting injured unnecessarily.

So, my running routine basically ranges from short easy runs, intervals, tempo, hill repeats, recovery to LSD on weekends. I usually grind harder on weekdays, running around 8-10km per session. Meanwhile on weekends, I will go for runs over 15km.

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ToughASIA: What is your proudest achievements in triathlon?

Ruth: My proudest achievement is definitely winning a 3rd place for my age group in my second IRONMAN Langkawi race in 2017 with a personal record of 14:02 hours. It was a huge bonus for me to be on podium that day.

On a side note, I was the youngest Malaysian female to complete a full IRONMAN distance at the age of 20 in 2016 with a timing of 15:35 hours. In 2017, I managed to shave off a total of 93 minutes.

ToughASIA: Have you joined any virtual races?

Ruth: It is indeed crazy times we are living in since MCO was first enforced in March last year. I think virtual races are the best solution thus far as everyone get to stay indoors and maintain social distancing.  Furthermore, we can influence or encourage our family members to participate together.

I had only joined VR twice and for other times, I would just continue with my running programme on the treadmill and workout session in my mini-gym  a.k.a. pain-cave at home.

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ToughASIA:  Do you train with any clubs or teams?

Ruth: Previously, I was in the Tadonamo triathlete club for 3 years. Later on, I trained on my own as I had started my clinical lesson in the army hospital and I was busy preparing for the finals during senior years. In future, I plan to join the army triathlon contingent.

ToughASIA: What keeps you going into 2021 and beyond as a triathlete? 

Ruth: As the cliché goes, “health is wealth”. 2020 was a year to equip and prepare us for tougher challenges ahead. In another 3 months, I will start working as an army house officer in Hospital Angkatan Tentera Tuanku Mizan. Housemanship is expected to be challenging, so I would need to reschedule and strategise my training programme in order to maintain my physique as well as to execute the best in my career.

Definitely, I’m looking forward to racing physically again and also in IRONMAN races be it local or overseas once the MCO is countermanded.

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Ruth’s sister has been instrumental and a big source of inspiration.

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ToughASIA: Would you like to share any other perspectives regarding your journey?

Ruth: Being a medical student and an athlete at the same time is not easy for me at all. Time management is very crucial to ensure these two commitments are constantly on par with each other.

I always hold to the quote that “it’s not about having time, it’s all about making time”.

However, once, I had suffered depression from taking every training session as an obligation. I was too focused on reaping what I sow in my training but never had I savoured the joy or fun from it. A friendly reminder to all athletes out there: as long as we are disciplined, positive and consistent, I believe victory would be undeniably ours regardless how long it takes.