SINGAPORE - When Irene Yap participated in the inaugural Great Eastern Women's Run (GEWR) in 2006, her inability to pace herself well saw her almost give up at the 8km mark of the 10km race.
Twelve years on, the 51-year-old is not only set to compete in her 13th straight GEWR on Oct 14, but she will also be a pacer for the half-marathon at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM).
Yap is one of almost 900 staff and representatives from Great Eastern participating in this year's run - the largest turnout in its history.
Recalling her maiden GEWR outing, which marked her return to running after more than a decade, Yap said: "The first training session I had was a 2km run outside, and I almost fainted.
"After 8km (of the race), I almost wanted to give up because my knee was so painful... it was my first time and I didn't know how to pace myself properly so I started too fast. But I just slowed down and told myself I cannot give up."
The former schools sprinter, who holds a clerical position, had signed up for the run in 2006 on a colleague's encouragement.
A bigger portion of her time is now devoted to running - while she used to train twice a week, she now runs four to five times weekly.
"After the first time, I realised I enjoyed running and I didn't want to stop... I can keep fit and it's my passion," she said.
Terms like "lactic acid" were previously unfamiliar to her, but Yap has since learnt enough to be a pacer at the SCSM since 2011.
"The first year I ran in the SCSM (half-marathon in 2009), I followed the pacers who helped me cross the finish line, so I wanted to give back to the community... there's a lot to learn from being a pacer as well," she added.
To her, the most valuable experience she has gained from deciding to pick up running again is making friends and exchanging tips with fellow runners.
Having always trained with a group - she now runs with Running Department on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and with another group of friends on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Said Yap, who also played volleyball and table tennis in school: "The running community is not very big, so we get to make a lot of friends and get to know the younger runners."
She is looking forward to enjoying the view while running in the half-marathon of the 13th GEWR, which will be at the Singapore Sports Hub for the first time. Previous editions of the run took place at the Marina Bay floating platform.
Said Keith Chia, Great Eastern's head of group brand and marketing: "I am delighted that so many of our staff have embraced the importance of a healthy lifestyle and are active ambassadors of our Live Great motto, with many encouraging colleagues, family members and friends to join them in the journey to better health."