Dr Ansgar Cheng – A Sharing Session on Soft and Hard Surface Running Posted on August 29, 2017

By Rameshon


Picture 1 – Introducing Dr Ansgar Cheng (2.4km – 7min 42sec)

There are altogether 3 experts who will be discussing on running on terrain and also on injuries. They are Dr Ashley Liew, Dr Ansgar Cheng,  and Dr Benedict Tan. Of the 3, Dr Ashley has explained in a clear manner on difference between running on soft and hard surface. It is found in our earlier blog post. 


Picture 2- An unrelenting Dr Ansgar in Asian Masters Track and Field Championships 2016, May, held in Singapore (He has a personal best time of 17min 39sec for 5km)

The next expert on terrain running and injuries will share his experience of running on soft and hard surface. He is none other than Dr Ansgar. He is a well informed person in Physiology and he is one of those that I can relate and discuss this subject in depth. Although he uses research to discuss with me, he is modest about being told that he is knowledgeable. He is one of those who can quickly grasp the subject matter, when a discussion takes place, as he is very keen in wanting to learn new things in Sports Physiology. 


Picture 3- Dr Ansgar (extreme left) and his wife Moonlake (extreme right) came for Hong Kong Marathon 2016 to support Jamie (fourth from left) and Dr Gordon (sixth from left) for their respective races.

To those who do not know Dr Ansgar, it is good to take note that he was the champion of POSB 10km Run 2016, for men open category, itself.  He was 50 years of age at that time. Even now, he motivates and inspires our young and old, male or female, to train harder, by making them to train harder in  running. He was first in Asian Masters 2015, with  a time of 17min 39sec for 5km between 45 and 50 years old for men. 


Picture 4- Many have told me that Dr Ashley Liew (First Singaporean to be awarded World Fair Play Award) and Dr Ansgar Cheng have always shown good sportsmanship like qualities for our young and they are also one of the top athletes in Singapore

In this question and answer session of the interview that I had, Dr Ansgar will share with everyone on his experience, running on soft and hard surface. I believe that the answers he has given will be very interesting and informative so that one can avoid all forms of injury.


Picture 5 – Dr Ansgar Cheng balances family, running and work well.

An Interview With Dr Ansgar Cheng

What do you understand about soft and hard terrain, Physiologically?

I am a practising as a dental specialist. I received my post graduate training in dental implants and biomaterial science particularly in the area of deformation of materials. I will try to elaborate my understanding of a terrain’s hardness/softness from a material science point of view. In general, hardness is the substance’s resistance to permanent deformation, which most people understand.

Another significant characteristic of hardness is the time factor (also known as ‘viscoelasticity’) , which is how much time delay it takes for the deformation to take place.

Apparently, under a given amount of force, not all materials deform equally in terms of magnitude and time. The more deformation that occurs when a given force is applied, the softer it is. On the other hand, the more time it takes for the deformation to happen, the softer it is felt by our body.

Physiologically speaking, our body’s tissue (bones, muscles, joints) are mostly made out of viscoelasticity material, which is designed to absorb shock. However, just like any material system, there is a limit to how much our body’s tissues can bear and injury may occur under excessive stress and strain. In running, the more gentle the shock, the easier it is on our body.


Picture 6 – (left to right) Dr Andreas Wenger, Evan Chee and Dr Ansgar Cheng in Singapore Athletics  Cross Country Race 2017

How have you been training, in terms of the terrain that you have run. when you were between the age of 12 and 30 years of age?

When I was growing up overseas, there wasn’t much choice of running terrain. It was 90% road running and 10% synthetic track. Back at that age, I was younger and I was smaller in size. Therefore, the hardness of the running surface did not bother me at all!


Picture 7 – Always Dr Ansgar shows keenness in finding out on recent studies done in running and, most importantly, Physiology

How have you been training, in terms of the terrain that you have run. when you were between the age of 30 and 50 years of age?

When I was in my 30s, I was quite over-weight and I was running mostly on a high-school tarmac track near my neighbourhood in North Toronto. After moving back to Asia, my family joined FlexiFitness in 2014. I started running about 45% on synthetic track, 45% on tarmac and 10% on grass.

Can you share with us on injuries and the terrain that we train on?

From 2011 onward, I certainly had more aches and pain which I believed was a 99% age related phenomenon. In Singapore, most runners spend their time mainly on the road or sidewalk. I am a person who does not generally pay attention to aches and pains. Occasionally, these aches and pains may turn into a situation where my running has to be adjusted or stopped for a meaningful period of time. Such injuries certainly are counterproductive and it negatively impacts me psychologically too.

Can you share with us on your experience at present on the terrain that you are training predominantly?

I do not spend time and effort to pay attention to aches and pains. I also did not pay much attention to the running terrain as well until I recently developed more symptoms. All along I had thought that the running impact can be managed by proper running shoes selection and efficient running form. Running form development can be helped by getting excellent coaching. However, shoes with more cushion only help up to a certain degree and then the benefits sort of plateau out.

I have been spending about 95% of the time running on grass recently, which makes me feel better on my legs during and after training even though the perceived running effort is greater. The greater perceived running effort, partly is a result of the relatively undulated grass surface when compared with other harder surfaces. My understanding is that the subtle unevenness helps to develop the lesser used muscles and enhance overall body coordination.

Do you recommend soft or hard surface to people? Can you share with us on your advice?

After my recent experience with grass running, I would try my best to stay away from hard surfaces! It will take some time to get used to running on grass but I think it is worth it.

Proud Moment!

Picture 8 – Dr Ansgar and Family


A/Prof Ansgar Cheng is a Prosthodontist (Dental Specialist in Teeth Replacement & Cosmetic Dentistry) at Specialist Dental Group (SDG). SDG’s team of internationally qualified dental specialists/dentist covers six specialty areas of dentistry. SDG also has a running team of dentists and nurses who actively participate in various local running events.