Athletics: Why Punggol is runner Vanessa Chong’s favourite place to train

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Ahead of the Great Eastern Women's Run, The Straits Times followed Dr Vanessa Chong on a reverse trip along the Great Singapore Run's Coastal Run.

SINGAPORE – An evening stroll to take photos of the sunset along Punggol Waterfront unexpectedly sparked Vanessa Chong’s love for running in 2018.

While taking in the scenery, she bumped into a group of Safra Running Club Punggol runners, who invited her to join them.

She said: “I actually never did any sports throughout my schooling years and started running in 2018.

“I thought there was some competition because I never knew running groups existed. Making new friends outside work and finding immense joy running in nature truly transformed my life.”

The doctor, a haematology specialist, signed up for her first 10km race in March 2018 and was surprised to finish on the podium. The result encouraged her to keep running and later that year, she came in third in the half-marathon at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon.

On Sunday, the 33-year-old will again be running a 21.1km race, this time in the elite category of the Great Eastern Women’s Run as it returns with a mass in-person event for the first time since 2019.

The event was cancelled in 2020 owing to the pandemic and the 2021 edition saw the elite-only half-marathon, which featured 15 runners, held in a physical format. The other five public categories – 5km, 10km, 21.1km, 113km, as well as 2km for mothers and daughters aged five to 12 – were virtual.

To prepare for this year’s edition, Chong has been training in Punggol, which is near her home and where she enjoys the tranquility of the forested areas as well as the riverine and coastal landscape.

Ahead of the race, Chong said: “I look forward to seeing the familiar faces of the running community, especially all the inspiring mother runners, and also the funds raised for the beneficiaries this year – Daughters of Tomorrow and the Singapore Cancer Society.”

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