32-year-old Dr Chua Jia Long aims to be the first Singaporean to complete the ultra-endurance swim.
Update: As of 8 June, motivated by the incredible momentum and generosity he has witnessed so far, Jia Long has raised his fundraising target to $250,000.
From 9 to 16 June this year, Singaporean Dr Chua Jia Long will take part in the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim to raise $25,000 for St Luke’s Hospital (SLH). Touted to be “the longest marathon swim in the world”, the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim is an open-water swim race in New York that requires participants to swim 120 miles (192km) – approximately the length of Singapore’s coastline. Jia Long, who is a Medical Officer with the Republic of Singapore Navy, looks forward to be the first Singaporean to successfully complete this event.
The idea came about when Jia Long was working as a Medical Officer at SLH in 2020, but it took a backseat due to the pandemic. “Back then, I was involved in both inpatient and outpatient care, and saw the positive benefit that SLH was providing to the community, so I wanted to do my part for the hospital,” recalled Jia Long.
In support of SLH’s upstream efforts in preventive health, Jia Long believes anyone can keep active, even those in their senior years. He added, “Good health is a finite resource that people should secure with good habits when they are healthy. For the elderly, active ageing is going to be important in making sure they can remain healthy and active to continue to be a blessing to the world around them.”
Arriving in New York on 6 June, he is excited for his first swim on 9 June. In preparation for the race, Jia Long wakes up at 4.30am daily to swim 4-5 kilometres before work and continues with another swim at the end of his workday. To build up his endurance, Jia Long swims longer distances on weekends. He has progressed to his current personal best of 6-hour (20km) swims to prepare for the longer multi-day swims of the marathon.
Training for a colder open-water swim is tougher in the warm and humid weather conditions of Singapore. To Jia Long, his biggest challenges would be acclimating to the cold-water temperature and race conditions. Being in the water for too long might also result in cumulative fatigue, chafed skin and cramps. As the swim rules prohibit the use of any thermal protection, Jia Long has been taking daily ice-cold showers and weekly cold tolerance training in an ice tub. He will also be following a strict nutrition plan of gels, drinks and electrolyte salt tablets whilst in the water.
While he first started swimming as a member of the water polo team during his school days, his passion for open-water swim marathons only started in 2019, when he found out such swims were held regularly around the region. “In 2019, my longest swim was 1.5km and I was wiped out after that. Through this training journey, I have learnt that we should not underestimate our own limits,” said the young doctor.
Through this marathon swim, Jia Long hopes to inspire others to face their challenges head on. He said: “I want to show that by breaking down the goal into a thousand small steps and taking the necessary steps daily, we can gradually overcome seemingly impossible challenges. Similarly, many people find it hard to sustain their exercise or even physical therapy. The trick is to start small and build up.”
All proceeds from this fundraising effort goes towards supporting patients at St Luke’s Hospital, ensuring they can recover, return home and reintegrate into the community. SLH continues to urge seniors in the community to remain healthy physically, socially and mentally through various preventive care programmes and initiatives, such as Western Silvercare, a community screening, prevention and active ageing programme.
The public can follow Dr Jia Long’s swim updates and donate at https://give.asia/campaign/swim-for-st-luke-s-hospital#/.