SINGAPORE – The first marathon Briton Charlie Webster attempted was the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in 2006 when she was based here as a presenter for ESPN.
That sparked a love for marathons and since then, she has run 15 marathons in London, Houston, New York and Los Angeles.
This year, Webster, 38, returned to the event that sparked her marathon journey and ran the SCSM Grand Finale Rouvy AR (augmented reality) Half Marathon from London.
Runners who select the AR categories can see their avatar run past landmarks in Singapore such as Orchard Road and Chinatown.
Webster, who runs about four to five times a week, said: “It was amazing to watch my avatar because I could see the streets of Singapore and it brought back so many memories.
“At the end, I could also see how many other runners were running and how many people finished.
“I love running and it’s for me to clear my head space but so much of it is about community as well. This made me feel like a part of something and I think that’s what’s special about running marathons.”
She also highlighted that there was even a virtual finishing line that her avatar crossed, just like in a real-life marathon.
Webster added that her time of 1hr 43min is the fastest she has run since she contracted malaria four years ago on a 3,000-mile cycle ride from London to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics.
She was placed on life support and at one point was told she had only 24 hours to live.
She said: “My body has been through so much so it’s been a real journey for me coming back physically and mentally. This is fastest and strongest I’ve felt since then.
“Running is something that really shaped my life. I run as an escape or when I’ve had a stressful day. It’s kind of my best friend and something I’ve always used to help with my mental health.”
Her run is also part of the SCSM 2020 Charity Challenge. For every 1km recorded by participants, Standard Chartered will donate $15 to help youth causes in Singapore. The target is $1 million.
Funds raised will be channelled through Community Chest in multi-year programmes in partnership with the members in its National Council of Social Service network.
Former Liverpool defender Jose Enrique is another foreign celebrity who participated in the marathon to raise funds.
The 34-year-old, who retired in 2017, completed the Grand Finale VR (virtual race) 10km distance from Valencia while nursing a knee injury.
“Exercise means everything to me. I still love keeping fit and I believe it helps with mental issues. Exercise keeps me sane and it helped me be active and feel happy,” said Enrique, who was cleared of cancer last April after being diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2018.
“(Giving back to the community) is the best thing about this. I’ve been a student myself and I know there are lots of kids struggling i nthe world. As soon as I had the opportunity to be involved in something like this and try to raise money for kids, I was more than happy to do it.”
The SCSM runs till Sunday (Dec 6) but you can still sign up at this website.
A Race As One live show on Saturday will also feature local celebrities and personalities taking part in the Rouvy AR Half Marathon Relay including Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and Singapore Tourism Board chief executive Keith Tan.