SINGAPORE, April 26, 2012 — When the women's and mixed teams from the Singapore Prison Service line up at the starting line next month in Chicago for the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship, they will have come a long way, both literally and figuratively.
Not only will Singapore's 2011 championship teams have traveled more than 9,300 miles to the heart of the United States, but they will be lining up against the best corporate running teams in the world.
On May 24, the two Singapore Prison Service (SPS) teams, along with men's champion Barclays, will represent Singapore at the 29th annual Series Championship. The men's, women's and mixed team champions from each city will square off in a 3.5-mile Championship that will be run just prior to the start of the regularly scheduled JPMorgan Chase & Co. Corporate Challenge in Chicago's Grant Park.
"This is the first time our team members are running in an overseas race together," said Choo Sau Mei, SPS company captain. "We have been training together, but not as often as we hope to because each of us has our own work and personal commitment. Many of us have never run in an overseas event before and are experiencing some anxiety."
One of the areas of concern for the SPS teams represents a reversal of sorts from the 2011 Series Championship, which saw teams from around the world travel to the hot, humid climate of Singapore for the finals. This year, the prison service teams are concerned about being too cold in Chicago.
Singapore Prison Service runners pose for a group photo.
"It will be a challenge for many of us to overcome the cool evening weather of Chicago as we are so used to Singapore's hot climate," Sau Mei said. "Believe it or not, the team did discuss what to wear during the run to keep us warm without hindering our pace. Secondly, I think we will be too excited to even have a good rest during the pre-race period. Nevertheless, nothing is going to stop us from running at our personal best."
And, she added, it helps to have two teams — eight runners — going to Chicago.
"Like an old saying, 'the more the merrier,'" she said, "it definitely helps to have two teams competing and supporting one another during the trip. The teams' support and encouragement for one another certainly help to relieve some of our anxiety and stress. Apart from the race, most of us have planned to visit some of the interesting places in USA and Canada."
Singapore Prison Service had, by far, its best results ever in Singapore's J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in 2011. Not only did the women's and mixed teams win their titles, but the men's team finished fourth.
"It was indeed a surprise for us as there are so many good teams challenging for the titles," said Sau Mei. "We never expected to win anything, not to mention two titles."
Several factors contributed to the strong showing.
Singapore Prison Service has a long history of encouraging physical fitness among its employees.
For starters, SPS has a long history of encouraging physical fitness. In the 1960s, the Prisons Service Recreational Club was formed to actively promote sporting activities for employees, such as athletics, soccer, and badminton. SPS competed in its first Corporate Challenge in 2005, with its men's team finishing fifth. After a two-year absence, the service has been a fixture at the growing Corporate Challenge in Singapore.
"We returned to participate in this meaningful event which promotes healthy lifestyle among working adults and at the same time, to support the race for a charitable cause," said Sau Mei. "Our teams did brilliantly in all past races with outstanding placing among the top seven teams across various categories."
Further, Sau Mei explained, it is a pre-requisite for all prison uniformed officers to be physically fit and to maintain their fitness.
"Prison officers are required to pass an annual Individual Physical Proficiency Test, which includes a 2.4 km run," she said. "But, there is no fixed formula for having good teams. PSRC also does not have the luxury of engaging a professional coach. Some of our runners double up as coaches by sharing their own experiences in training. A few of us who are committed to and passionate about running meet for group runs occasionally. We also sign up for team races at our own accord."
It all came together beautifully at the 2011 Singapore J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge.
SPS' winning mixed team of Ramesh Palaniandy, Mohammed Fazly Hassan, Bee Teng Ng, and Kailin Ng combined for a time of 1:32:09 to easily outdistance past champion Singapore American School and its star runner, Andrew Hallam, who finished third overall in 19:57.
The race was closer for SPS' women's team. Mong Teng Lam, Mabel Lee, Pui Fun Yim and Lay Chin Ng used consistent times to record a combined time of 1:52:27, more than a minute ahead of runner-up IRAS.
"We can't wait to participate in the Championship," Sau Mei said. "It will be an eye opener for us to go to Chicago and run the same race with the world’s top teams. We are prison uniformed officers from different age groups and backgrounds, but have come together as a team due to our passion in middle-long distance running. Chicago, here we come!"