StanChart manager postpones wedding celebrations for 90-day Belt and Road Relay

Therese Neo is one of eight Standard Chartered Bank employees selected to run in the Belt and Road Relay across 44 country-markets in 90 days. (PHOTO: Standard Chartered Singapore)
Therese Neo is one of eight Standard Chartered Bank employees selected to run in the Belt and Road Relay across 44 country-markets in 90 days. (PHOTO: Standard Chartered Singapore)

Since last year, Therese Neo had been eagerly planning and anticipating her wedding celebrations, which were originally set for this May.

Then, in October, the Standard Chartered Bank relationship manager found out that she had been chosen as one of eight employees to run in the bank’s inaugural Belt and Road Relay – a whirlwind 90-day trip to run in every of its 44 country-markets along the Belt and Road corridors of the well-known, China-led trade initiative.

The eight StanChart runners were chosen from over 550 employees who had expressed their interest in taking part, and they hail from all over the world – from China, Malaysia, Britain and even Uganda.

Supportive husband fully behind her decision

Amid her excitement at being selected, Neo also realised that the relay – which takes place from February to May – will clash with her wedding dinner preparations. Would her husband, as well as her parents and relatives, be willing to postpone the celebrations?

“My husband James was like, no questions asked, very supportive of my decision,” the 27-year-old told Yahoo News Singapore. “We eventually postponed the celebrations until July, and even then, he will be doing most of the preparations. He also has to take care of my cat, which is so sweet of him.

Standard Chartered Bank Singapore’s CEO Patrick Lee (in blue shirt) leading the 160-strong staff contingent in the 3.2km fun run around Marina Bay Promenade, as part of the bank’s Belt and Run Relay. The eight athletes chosen to run the relay are in white shirts, including Singapore’s Therese Neo (first from right). (PHOTO: Standard Chartered Singapore)
Standard Chartered Bank Singapore’s CEO Patrick Lee (in blue shirt) leading the 160-strong staff contingent in the 3.2km fun run around Marina Bay Promenade, as part of the bank’s Belt and Run Relay. The eight athletes chosen to run the relay are in white shirts, including Singapore’s Therese Neo (first from right). (PHOTO: Standard Chartered Singapore)

“As for our parents and relatives, we had a bit of explaining and convincing to do, but they were also good about it. They were used to me constantly travelling for work anyway, but I’m glad that all of them were so understanding.”

Fun run at Marina Bay

On Friday (1 March), the Belt and Road Relay reached Singapore’s shores for its ninth pit stop, having started its journey on 17 February at the StanChart Hong Kong Marathon. About 160 StanChart employees – in celebration of the bank’s 160th anniversary in Singapore – joined Neo and her seven fellow relay participants in a 3.2-kilometre fun run along the Marina Bay Promenade.

Neo, an avid runner who has taken part in several half-marathons including last December’s StanChart Singapore Marathon, said that the runs vary in distance and format at each pit stop, and she has to run as much as 10km at certain stops.

The bigger challenge, she feels, was to maintain her fitness and well-being throughout the 44 runs, which will take place about once every two days for the next couple of months. Also, she has to deal with the incessant travelling after each run – constant flying, checking in and out of hotels, packing and unpacking, and even doing her laundry in time for the next stop.

Nevertheless, the support from her fellow StanChart colleagues at every stop gave her immense encouragement to complete the event.

She said, “Everyone just welcomes you straight away and makes you feel at home. I had worked for about a year and seven months in our Vietnam branch, and when we were running there a couple of weeks ago, it was like a reunion for me and my former colleagues. They were like, ‘You’ve come back! You’re representing us for this run!’ It was really heartwarming.”

Relay possible because of rich heritage, local knowledge

StanChart Singapore chief executive officer Patrick Lee, who joined his staff in Friday’s run around Marina Bay, said that this global relay – the first of its kind along the Belt and Road corridors – was made possible because of the bank’s rich heritage and local knowledge, as its footprint covers two-thirds of the Belt and Road markets.

The 47-year-old added, “The relay also showcases the experience we have in sponsoring signature marathons events across different markets. In the process of putting everything together, we are showcasing some of the best values that Standard Chartered stands for – going the distance, being better together, and never settling.”

Participants for the Singapore stop of the Belt and Run Relay before the start of the 3.2km run around Marina Bay Waterfront. (PHOTO: Standard Chartered Singapore)
Participants for the Singapore stop of the Belt and Run Relay before the start of the 3.2km run around Marina Bay Waterfront. (PHOTO: Standard Chartered Singapore)

For Neo, it is back to her hectic routine of travelling and running for the next couple of months, after catching up with her husband and family during her short Singapore stay. Nonetheless, she is eagerly looking forward to the rest of the relay, which will end on 11 May in China, after the country hosts the second Belt and Road Forum.

“It has really been an eye-opening experience travelling to all these markets, going to cities which I would not have the opportunities to go to, and getting to know so many of my international colleagues,” she said.

“Every day is hectic; it’s like an overload of the senses. But this is an incredible experience, and I’m truly grateful.”

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