Tenacious. No other word describes Jeri Chua’s character as perfectly. She’s the first Singaporean woman to take part in the Ultra Trail Gobi Race in 2015, which saw her brave blistering temperatures, unnavigable sand dunes and extreme physical duress across 400 km.
“I realised then that no one can help you across the finish line,” she says of her journey. “You have to find it within yourself. You can find support in other people but at the end of the day, it’s your choice to make whether you want to carry on or not.”
Furthermore, Jeri finished second female overall, becoming the first Singaporean woman to complete such an ultra-distance.
“I love things that test my limits and really challenge me. I found running to be the thing that helped me to focus and find myself,” she says. “When you’re out there on the trail, you really have to be alone with yourself the whole time so it lends a clarity to who you are, what you’re looking for, what you want to do.”
She has been in search of that runner’s high ever since and has racked up a whole lot of other “firsts” in the process, including being the first Singaporean to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, way back in 1997, and the first Singaporean woman to complete the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in 2011.
“The competitor right in front of me just walked off the cliff. It was an accident, he lost his footing and things took a turn for the worse,” she recalls. “I was the first one on scene so I spent my first night on the side of a cliff waiting for the rescue team to reach us.”
She adds that following the accident, she found herself lost. “I just asked myself ‘What do I do?’, ‘Should I move on?’, ‘Should I stop?’,” she says. “It’s crazy, crazy situations like that stretch you to your limits. You just start reevaluating your whole life and that’s when you find out what you’re really made of.”
Still, the harrowing experience hasn’t deterred her from a sport that she says makes her a well-rounded individual.
“I take a lesson away from every race I take part in and use it so that I can have a better experience at my next one. Every failure, every race that I didn’t finish, it adds to my learning curve,” she reveals.
“It’s all about your perspective. I’m a glass half-full kind of person and it makes a big difference to see things in that perspective and to think ‘Yup, I fell down but I can pick myself up again and keep going’.”
Words to live by: “Taking the path less travelled is a lot more rewarding than you expect.”
Next up: “I’m working on building up the ultra-running community in Singapore and Southeast Asia through my business, Red Dot Running Company. Once a month, we hold movie nights so runners of all abilities can interact in a social context, and were looking to hold more brand events in the future. On a personal scale, I’m also planning to run the length of New Zealand (more than 3,000 km) next year in under 60 days.”
The Great Women Of Our Time 2017 is proudly presented by Lancôme.