Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Yvonne Chee

Cheryl Tay
·7-min read
Yvonne Chee is an avid marathon runner.
Yvonne Chee is an avid marathon runner. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Life goes beyond the digits on the scale and your body is capable of so much more. Yahoo’s #Fitspo of the Week series is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. Have someone to recommend? Hit Cheryl up on Instagram or Facebook.

Name: Yvonne Elizabeth Chee (@lovelivelaughrun)

Age: 41

Height: 1.67m

Weight: 58kg

Occupation: Civil Servant

Status: Married with two daughters

Diet: No particular diet. I would eat more carbohydrates the night before a long run or speed workout. I make sure to consume a Nuzest protein shake after my runs as a quick way to replenish protein and aid in recovery. I enjoy a glass of wine or two, and would do so when I don't have a tough run the following day. I've learnt and constantly remind myself of having everything in moderation and I need to properly fuel my body to train and recover well.

Training: I run almost every day. During marathon training season, sometimes I run twice a day. On a good week, I actually get strength training in once or twice a week.

Q: What were your backgrounds in sports?

A: I represented my primary and secondary schools as well as junior college as a school-team gymnast from 8 to 18 years old. I was also a netballer in secondary school and also represented my junior college and university in bowling.

Yvonne once did seven marathons in seven continents.
Yvonne once did seven marathons in seven continents. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

You started running in your adult years and even went on to do seven marathons in seven continents. What led to that?

My first two marathons were in Brussels and New York. Since that was already two continents, I wondered if it would be possible to run a marathon on all continents and embarked on pursuing this dream. I subsequently decided to dedicate my seven marathons on seven continents bids to my late grandmother who had brought me up. In her honour, I decided to raise funds for the elderly and raised close to $25,000 for the elderly at the Tsao Foundation.

You've been running since 2006 because you enjoy it, but why did you only get competitive in 2016?

I treated running as a hobby and stress-relief in the earlier years. I didn’t really plan to compete in 2016, but I had entered a 10km race 15 months post-partum in August 2016, after my first child Lea. I came in seventh for that race and thereafter finally relented to my brother Evan’s (who is also a national marathoner) persuasion to start proper training with him in September 2016. With three months of training, I was fortunate to come in 10th (local women) in the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in December 2016.

With becoming a competitive runner at a later stage in life, what are some of the challenges you face?

The major challenge is time management. I am a full-time working mum of two kids and a national marathoner. Family, training and work take up most of my time. While I’m physically fitter now than ever (even compared to my 25-year-old self), recovery from intense bouts of training and running is slower, so I’ve always emphasised the importance of recovery tools and treatment. I don’t think there are any concrete “advantages” to getting competitive at a later stage in life.

How has your brother Evan influenced your running?

Evan was the one who convinced me in September 2016 to get off the treadmill – I trained for all my marathons on the treadmill up until then – and start proper training with a coach. That changed my entire running trajectory. With three months of training, I came in 10th position (local women) in the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in December 2016. I was then selected to represent Singapore in the New Tai Pei Wan Jin Shi Marathon in March 2017.

Yvonne credits her brother Evan as getting her in competitive running.
Yvonne credits her brother Evan as getting her in competitive running. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

What are some of the highlights of your running career?

My proudest moments of my “running career” are:

  • Completed the London Marathon at five months post-partum in April 2018 in 3hr 33min 42sec. This is a Boston Marathon qualifying time for my age group.

  • Completed the Sunshine Marathon at 10 months post-partum in August 2018 in 3:13. Ninth-placed lady in an international field. This was a new personal best (PB) for me then.

  • One year post-partum, I came in third Singaporean woman in the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in December 2018. The timing of 3:25 was a new local/Singapore PB for me.

  • In the Virgin Money London Marathon in April 2019, the timing of 3:03 is a new PB for me. This was the fourth fastest marathon timing for Singapore women in 2019.

  • Came in third Elite in the Great Eastern Women's Run (half marathon) in November 2019.

  • Came in third Singaporean Masters and fifth Singaporean woman in Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in December 2019

What are some of the lows of your running career?

My running timings improved a lot following my return to running after my second child. Within the 15 months post-partum, I shaved off 20 minutes of my marathon PB to bring it down to 3:03. These improvements came with very tough training and pushing the body to its limits as I was recovering from childbirth, breastfeeding, not sleeping enough, working full-time while now being a mother of two.

By August 2019, I had completed five marathons within 21 months post-partum. Exhaustion and fatigue finally caught up with me in end 2019 and my mind and body came close to a breakdown. I was very fortunate to have a mentor, Scott Larson, who guided and advised me along the way to steer me out of the difficult period.

What's next?

Beating my personal bests across various distances – 5km, 10km, half-marathon and the marathon including a sub-3hr marathon, and continue to remain among the top female local marathon runners and stay in the national team. I want to show my two daughters Lea and Eva that they should dream big and work hard to chase their goals. Nothing is impossible.

Even with the demands of motherhood, Yvonne has been able to balance her work, family and running.
Even with the demands of motherhood, Yvonne has been able to balance her work, family and running. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

As a mum of two kids under 5 and a full-fledged career, how do you even find time to train at such a high level for an endurance sport?

It is tough, to say the least. I constantly feel guilty for not being a good mum as work is demanding and training takes up time. I prioritise what I need to do. For instance, I wake up at 5am daily to get my training and runs done before the family wakes up. I run errands during lunch instead of having lunch with colleagues. I schedule in family time. It’s important to love what we do.

Do you see yourself doing this for a long time?

Running is not my livelihood but a passion so while my mind, body and legs can hold up, I will continue to train and push myself to excel in it.

Was there a time where you felt the least confident about yourself?

For all that’s said and done, I’m actually not a very confident person. I may come across as being jovial and outspoken, but family and closer friends would know I’m not exactly the most confident person.

I’ve only started to let go of expectations of myself and be happy and confident with who I am and what I have in the past year or so. I would say it comes with age as we realise that we are who we are and those who love and care for us accept us for who we are and we do not have to live up to expectations of anyone else.

Are you satisfied with your body now?

I’m quite a slave-driver when it comes to myself. I have diastasis recti from childbirth (separation of abdominal muscles) so I’m very conscious of my tummy bulge. That said, I also know that this is a body that allows me to train at a high intensity, carried me through to a marathon time of 3:03 and also breastfed my two daughters for 36 months. So while I may not be aesthetically the most satisfied with my body, I’m very grateful and appreciate how strong my body and legs are.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Yvonne Chee.
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Yvonne Chee. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)