SINGAPORE - In 2018, when KLA Singapore decided to register for The Straits Times Run as a corporate entry for the first time, country president Theo Kneepkens used to have to send reminders to encourage his staff to sign up.
But since then, the ST Run has become an event that staff, family members and customers of the semiconductor systems company look forward to.
This year, KLA Singapore, the local arm of American company KLA Corporation, will be sending its biggest contingent of 817 participants for the run, which will be held as a virtual race this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kneepkens said: "I actually feel that in earlier years, we were encouraging people more.
"I think it has become so much of a yearly event that people are looking out for it."
The 52-year-old added that some might have been encouraged to sign up for The Straits Times Virtual Run (STVR) this year because of its flexible format, which allows them to complete various distances in their own time and at their own pace.
Of KLA Singapore's 817 participants, 310 have signed up for the 175km category while 507 will be tackling the 17.5km race.
The race period for the 17.5km category is Oct 9-18, while that of the 175km is Oct 19-Dec 17.
Even with the cancellation of traditional mass participation events due to the pandemic, Kneepkens wanted to continue with the company's annual tradition of taking part in mass runs as a corporate grouping.
He said: "Many people say that we are maybe more stressed out by work than we were before so I feel exercising is a way to work on health, both physically as well as mentally, and this helps to encourage people to exercise and do it."
First-time participant Vicky Wang, who joined the company last month, sees the STVR as a stepping stone towards her goal of completing her first marathon.
After a two-year break from running because of a back strain, the manufacturing design engineer picked up the sport again during the circuit breaker period, when gyms were closed.
She started off with 1.5km runs and can now complete a 10km run.
Wang, 29, said: "I enjoy having a goal, then slowly improving to achieve it. Now I keep running and when marathons can finally resume, hopefully I can do a half-marathon or full marathon."
The atmosphere of this year's run will be different as staff will run remotely, but the organising committee has come up with ways to make staff feel connected.
One such initiative is the creation of a montage of participants' pictures that will eventually spell 'KLA'.
Organising committee member Frederick Tang, 69, said: "You won't be coming in (with colleagues) on the day so it's a bit toned down but I think it's a good experience to have a virtual run."