SINGAPORE - The Straits Times will on Monday (Aug 24) launch its first-ever virtual run, with the 2020 ST Virtual Run (STVR) replacing the traditional ST Run that attracts over 13,000 runners annually.
Unlike mass participation runs which see thousands gathering in one place before pounding the streets, the STVR allows participants to run a race at their own pace and in their own space. Runners are also allowed to record their distances over several sessions.
To mark this paper's 175th anniversary, there will be two categories at the STVR - 17.5km and 175km. Participants will have 10 days to complete 17.5km and 60 days for the 175km distance.
ST sports editor Lee Yulin, who is also chairman of the STVR, said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in a way that was previously unimaginable.
"But life must carry on and we are pleased to be able to put on the ST Virtual Run because it allows us to engage the running community in a manner that is safe for our participants, sponsors and partners.
"The beauty of a virtual run lies in its flexibility, which makes it ideal for busy individuals. Besides being able to determine when and where you run, you can also decide how challenging you want the experience to be by either clocking longer distances at one go or breaking up the effort into bite-sized pieces."
The race period for the 17.5km run is Oct 9-18, while that for the 175km is Oct 19-Dec 17.
Entry fees for past participants of the ST Run are $15 (17.5km) and $20 (175km). Early bird prices are $18 and $23 respectively till Sept 11. Normal rates are $22 and $27.
Registration closes at 11.59pm on Oct 4. Those interested can sign up at the website.
Philip Chua, director of presenting sponsor Panasonic Singapore, encouraged participants to sign up, saying: "Unfortunately, due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, large-scale events will have to be avoided. However, keeping a healthy mind and lifestyle remains equally important for our nation to ride through this pandemic.
"We'd like to encourage everyone to participate in this initiative where we bring the joy of running to the community without compromising their safety. Through digitalisation, participants can connect and encourage one another to keep moving and stay healthy."
Managing director of F&N Foods Singapore & YFI Malaysia Jennifer See noted that hydration partner 100PLUS has been an integral part of The Straits Times Run over the years, adding: "We are delighted to be able to support the inaugural ST Virtual Run 2020, to encourage Singaporeans to continue staying active and keeping themselves hydrated, while observing safe distancing in our nation's fight to keep everyone safe."
OCBC Bank's head of group brand and communications Koh Ching Ching said she was heartened that OCBC Cycle's partnership with the ST Run has continued for the sixth year, adding: "(The Covid-19 outbreak) has impacted all aspects of our society and many events, including mass-participation sporting events, which were a mainstay in many Singaporeans' must-do lists over the various weekends throughout the year.
"In Singapore, both OCBC Cycle and the ST Run remain hugely popular among the sporty crowd and we do not want to disappoint the runners and cyclists who look forward to it each year.
"Both events have adopted virtual formats to provide viable opportunities for those who wish to join in the fun while staying safe, thus paving the way for future events to continue engagements with their participants virtually."
Previous ST Run participants welcomed the news of the event going virtual, with doctor Gwen Lim, 39, saying: "It's going to be quite a good experience because we are all still running, so even though we can't run together in big groups anymore, it still doesn't take away that passion of wanting to join a race. This is one of the areas where we have to improvise during this period."
Fellow runner Jared Dougherty, AT&T and WarnerMedia's head of external and regulatory affairs (Asia) noted that the community element of the event would still remain despite the run being a virtual one.
The 49-year-old added: "The training and planning how to get there and where to eat with your friends (after the run) is part of the experience, now I think people are going to find new ways - they'll be in touch through WhatsApp groups and asking things like, 'How far along are you in your 175km?'
"It still, in one way, gives you a common experience to talk about and plan for, even if you're not going to do it together."
Race finishers will receive a New Balance "Dry" tee worth $49.
Last year, the ST Run announced a unique three-piece medal for participants which, when joined together, would form an image of the city's iconic landscape. The first piece was awarded to 2019 race finishers. This year, those who complete the 17.5km event will receive the second part of the medal, while those who go the full 175km distance will get both the second and third pieces.
In addition to the entitlements, those who sign up also stand a chance to win prizes from sponsors via social media contests.
Follow the event's Facebook and Instagram pages at @thestraitstimesrun for event updates.