Jeri Chua, 41, is no stranger to the ultra running community in Singapore.
Having been involved in ultras since 2009, what she particularly loves about this, is the community aspect. Said Jeri, a Race Director and Distributor of Tailwind Nutrition, “I love that ultra running is such a community sport, yet at the same time, perfect for introverts because you are alone for long periods of time in usually spectacular surroundings. It is the best way of getting away from it all.”
Added Jeri, “And yet, the ultra running community is a pretty tight knit group – with so much, yet so little in common at times. People from all walks of life come together to revel in the outdoors. The effort may be your own but the camaraderie and support from everyone around, plays such an important part in the personal achievement of completing your journey.”
USED TO BE A TRIATHLETE
Prior to ultras, Jeri used to be a triathlete. She said “I got into triathlons 1994 and found that I liked the long distance ones better than the shorter course ones. I was in the national team for a bit but it was a very young sport in Singapore then. And everyone was taking about Kona (the Ironman World Championships) so I did my first Ironman in New Zealand in 1998, won my age group and qualified for Kona – that was my second Ironman. While it was a great experience, it was also my first introduction to overtraining!”
And so she took a hiatus from sports completely following this. Said Jeri, “I then joined a running club in the United Kingdom in 2009 to get back to running – some members, known officially as the Mud Crew, were into ultra and just listening about their exploits really intrigued me. I did my first trail race and then my first ultra under their encouragement.”
That was also when Jeri had also realised that she was hooked onto running ultras.
ULTRA RUNNING IS CRAZY
And since then, she has completed some rather “crazy” exploits in the name of ultra running. These include 400km at the UltraTrail Gobi Race, 298km at the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge and the 100km Oxfam TrailWalker…wearing a shark suit.
Said Jeri, “I’m not sure what qualifies as crazy in ultra running though – the more I do, the more the challenges seem par for the course.”
She added “The above races are all single stage events though, which I generally prefer over multi stage races.”
EVERY RACE IS MEMORABLE
But while crazy, each one of her races holds precious memories for Jeri.
She said “Every race is a memorable one due to the sheer length of them. I have had hypothermia, impossible blisters, chafing, gotten lost for miles, seen some of the most incredible sunsets and sunrises in the world, climbed seemingly endless mountains, laughed and cried and had the best moments of my life, ever.”
Added Jeri “Each race has its special moments and my main thought is to take in everything and learn from it, regardless of the outcome, and that is what keeps me smiling.”
PAIN IS NORMAL
Regarding the pain that ultra runners generally experience, this is perfectly normal according to Jeri.
She said “You have to be able to distinguish between pain that you can ignore and pain that you shouldn’t.”
Added Jeri, “Exhaustion and fatigue should be your closest friends in ultras. You’ll never run away from them and they will only make your life miserable if you try too hard to fight them. So learn what your body can get away with, train to deal with the effects of fatigue and exhaustion, and be as well-rested as possible when you start. The hallucinations are a bonus!”
ENJOY YOURSELF AND RUN EASY
And packing too much is what novices do at ultra running, according to Jeri.
She said, “I carried kilos and kits of food, much more than I needed, and I ran far too much in training when I first started ultra running. You don’t need as much as you think you do! Enjoy the journey, and run easy – I know this now!”
CO-ORGANISING THE GREAT RELAY
To introduce newcomers to ultra running, Jeri is helping to organise The Great Relay, together with an Australian ultra runner, Vlad Ixel.
Now into its second year, The Singapore edition of Great Relay is a rather unique ultra race whereby runners team up together in groups of two, four or six runners to conquer either 50km or 100km together.
The 2016 edition of this race will be taking place on the 4th of June.
JERI WANTS THE GREAT RELAY TO BE A PLATFORM FOR COMMUNITY SHARING
Said Jeri, “I love the concept of The Great Relay. As ultra runners and races, we all go to events, run and usually go home straight after that. The Great Relay is meant to be a community event – one where people of different abilities can get together and achieve an ultra distance through a team effort, even if you never have run more than five or ten kilometres before.”
She continued, “we want to create a platform for interaction and sharing for the local community where runners, aspiring runners and their families can meet, share and just have a great day out.”
At the race village, runners can look forward to a myriad of activities such as yoga and kids’ races to cater to families.
Said Jeri, “And when you are running, your team mates can help look after your kids! We are focused on providing a good day out rather than giving runners a lot of vouchers and souvenirs which go unused in goodie bags. The race entity includes food, drink, an event tee and a finisher’s medal plus a great day out for everyone.”
She added, “It will be a great team event. Everyone will work together to achieve something that one alone, may not be able to do.”
A FEW CHANGES FROM 2015 EDITION
There will be a few significant changes from the 2015 event though.
Explained Jeri “The venue will be at a beautiful local park, so it’s a fast, flat course. we have some great sponsor booths, meals and drinks all day and some great activities planned by our sponsors to keep everyone entertained.”
The 2015 event had been a mixture of trail and roads and comprised of a couple of challenging slopes to keep runners on their toes.
TIPS TO CONQUER THE GREAT RELAY
So what tips does Jeri have, for those who want to conquer The Great Relay?
She said “Put your strongest runners in the front of the lineup. Everyone runs a lap in sequence and your combined distance will make up to the race distance that you are registered for. The 50km runners will do 15 laps and the 100km runners complete 29 laps. So not everyone does the same number of laps, and the stronger runners can run first so that they will end up doing the extra laps required.”
Added Jeri, “Take advantage of the yoga, food and massage at the race village too in between laps – it’s like a long interval session!”