ESTHER Tan is Singapore's most wanted female adventure racer.
In 2007, she was the top Singaporean female in the Ironman 70.3 Singapore Triathlon which qualified her for the Florida 70.3 race in the United States.
The 34-year-old was also the first Singaporean and the only woman in the only Asian team to compete in the Adventure Racing World Championship in Scotland in 2007. Known as the 'Olympics of adventure races', only top experienced racers qualify for the world championship series.
People in the small, closely-knit community of adventure racers here would not be surprised by the high demand for Tan in Asia.
After all, she is the first female naval diver and part of our elite Naval Diving Unit since 2003.
Last week, Tan received an invitation to run in the Mizuno Mount Faber Run on 14 Jun.
Asked if she would run the 10km race together with a group of teenaged girls from Andrew and Grace Home, Tan agreed readily.
She told The New Paper: 'I feel honoured to get such an invite, to be able to contribute to society through sports.
'I enjoy running, especially with good company. If I can forge some friendships with the girls and inspire them in some ways, it's better than winning the race.'
Indeed, there is no doubt that the petite 1.55m-tall endurance athlete, who won Her World's Young Woman Achiever of the Year 2006 award, would be a role model for teenagers.
Tan, the eldest of three children, was inspired to join the Navy by her late mother, a primary school teacher who died of cancer when Tan was barely 21.
Her father was a former civil servant.
In the Navy, Tan did what the men did.
Navy divers usually specialised in search-and-rescue operations and explosive ordnance disposal.
She has since earned the rank of Major in the Navy.
But she wasn't always fit, Tan confessed.
The humble and soft-spoken athllete had failed her National Aerobics Fitness Award (Nafa) test when she was in secondary school.
She only started building her fitness level during her basic military training upon signing up with the Navy.
Tan completed a degree course in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, under a Navy scholarship.
It was during her university days that she started joining biathlons and caught the adventure-racing bug.
She has taken part in over 30 international marathons, triathlons, Ironman and adventure races in the United States, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China and Singapore.
Tan, who is single, said: 'I try to do at least one race a month. It can be in Malaysia, Hong Kong or Singapore. And I would aim for a podium finish.'
She has taken part in the Desaru-Pengerang International Long Distance Triathlon four times.
With too many races under her belt, Tan cannot remember how she did in the past races.
But last year, she claimed the Women's Open title for the half-Ironman race in Desaru. And the year before, she was in the Overall Champion Team for the Ace Adventure Race and the Safra Adventure Race.
Earlier this year, the avid mountain biker was first in a 100km off-road race and in a duathlon at Bike Asia 2009.
Tan said: 'We're living in an urban environment but I love the outdoors. I love conquering the rough terrain, having the wind blow in my face and the smell of the plants.
'I am an explorer. I like the team dynamics in adventure races. I love those moments of excitement when we discovering things together as a team.
'Endurance races have helped to build my mental strength and willpower to achieve a goal.'
Tan explained: 'Sometimes when I am in an endurance race, I would feel that the race is neverending. Yet I know that eventually the race would come to an end. I would tell myself that I am on top of the situation, I am in control and work towards arriving at the finishing point.'
To date, Tan's highest endurance level is having only 29 hours of sleep in 10 days when she completed 700km in the Australia XPD Adventure Race 2006 in Tasmania.
Tan said: 'For nearly a decade in adventure races, I have been privileged to stand beside great racing mates, walk the trails where great adventure racers have trod, listen to great adventure stories and bike alongside athletes twice my size.
'I'm inspired by the incredible drive and great competitive spirit of those awesome athletes whose hard work and commitment fuels me.
'To all women out there, there is a huge demand for you in one of the world's most challenging sports. We play a bigger role than just being a 'mandatory gear' on the team.'
Esther Tan's tips on how to form an adventure racing team Find three good friends who are willing to commit their time, energy, efforts and resources together.
Decide on a race that the four of you are willing to commit to.
Conduct intensive training programmes for the team to foster stronger bonds and greater understanding of one another. It is important to identify each others' strengths and accept one another's weaknesses.
Assign roles and tasks to each member of the team. Decisions are made based on the group consensus so that the team will not end up on a fault- finding trip.
Support from family, friends and colleagues are critical to ensure positive commitment to the overall well-being of the team.
Communication is crucial and it should not be between just two members but all four members in the team.
Always stay bright and happy. Remind yourself that you are pursuing your passion. Think of yourself as gifted with unlimited strength and energy to finish the expedition race.