The second edition of the Ground Zero – Run for Humanity took place early this morning.
Singapore’s only humanitarian charity run, the Ground Zero – Run for Humanity is organised by Mercy Relief, a Singaporean non-governmental humanitarian organisation. The run aims to let participants experience the harsh conditions in times of natural disasters.
TOOK PLACE AT CASUARINA GROVE, EAST COAST PARK
The 2016 race, which took place at Casuarina Grove, East Coast Park, saw more than 1,200 runners take part in either the 5km Relief Aid Challenge or the 10km Race against Time categories and the kids race. To cater to children aged between 3 to 12 too, there was a 500m dash for humanity – a new category this year.
The event was graced by Mdm Rahayu Mahzam, Member of Parliament (MP) for Jurong GRC as the guest of honour. She said, “Ground Zero – Run for Humanity adopts an original race format allowing participants to personally experience what it is like to endure harsh conditions in times of crisis.”
She continued, “Mercy Relief has done well in innovating ways to engage with and inform the public. It is encouraging to see the public’s interest to help those in need locally and abroad.”
500 RUNNERS PARTICIPATED IN THE 5KM RELIEF AID CHALLENGE
More than 500 runners had participated in the 5km Relief Aid Challenge, including the Netball Singapore National 21 & Under players – who were recently appointed as ambassadors for Mercy Relief. This running category had participants carry a 5kg relief pack filled with essential disaster food relief aids such as rice, salt and cooking oil throughout the entire 5km running course.
The reasons behind this category had been to simulate the journey of the survivors of a natural disaster – to retrieve a substantial amount of aid when calamity hits. However in real life though, survivors will have to carry more than 5kg of aid and cover twice the distance that the participants had done today.
Said Tan Shi Ni, Captain of the national U21 netball team, who participated in the 5km Relief Aid Challenge, “It was a great experience to run while carrying the weighted relief packs. Being part of this event has opened our hearts to the experiences of the disaster victims and we have become more motivated to do more for those in need.”
500 METRE DASH FOR HUMANITY FOR THE CHILDREN
The 500m Dash for Humanity also saw the children carrying 1kg relief packs throughout the 500m distance – this was inspired by actual young survivors who are often sent as representatives by their families to obtain relief supplies.
10KM RACE AGAINST TIME
But other participants, including me, took part in the 10km Race against Time, which had a cut off time of 80 minutes for 10km. The strict cut-off time and the aim of this category was to simulate the sense of urgency during evacuation for safety in times of crises.
The 10km race against time had flagged off at 7.30am in the morning and saw runners complete an out and back route from Casuarina Grove towards the East Coast Park Lagoon hawker centre.
We then continued for another couple of kilometres, U-turning somewhere between Carpark C2 and D1. The route then led us in the other direction towards Sunset Bay for another couple of kilometres before then returning to the ending point. In short, it had been a scenic and cooling run through Singapore’s longest park.
Said Alison Shea, a lawyer attorney in her 30s, “I always love running in the East Coast. This is my favourite place to run and I enjoyed today as we had a great breeze with perfect weather. It was nice.”
Due to the sea breeze too, this race was not as humid as some of the city races that I have taken part in previously.
With 80 minutes to complete the 10km Race against Time, I chose to maintain a pace of roughly between 6.30 – 7.00 mins/kilometre, before then speeding up in the final few kilometres – this strategy got me across the finish line within the 80 minutes cut-off time.
RUNNING ON SAND TO MIMIC THE JOURNEY OF NATURAL DISASTER VICTIMS
As the natural disaster survivors have to traverse through rocky and sandy terrains, as well as face plenty of other obstacles along their path, the Ground Zero Run had tried to mimic this by having us run on some sand for parts of the way.
As this had been slightly more challenging than simply running on flat ground, I must say that it had helped to give me a sense of perspective of what the natural disaster victims have to face when they are racing to safety when a disaster strikes.
I did feel my heart rate elevating during the sand sections at the beginning of the race, but I didn’t slow down, instead telling myself that in an emergency, slowing down could potentially mean the difference between life and death for the victims involved.
In fact the only times when I did allow myself to catch my breath for a fleeting moment, was at the hydration stations, to grab a cup of water before carrying on with the run. There was isotonic drink also, but this was the fizzy sort which does not really agree with my body when I am working out.
SOME CARRIED RELIEF AID PACKS FOR 10KM
I also admit that I did not carry a relief aid pack myself when I was running, but I saw several runners along even the 10km route doing just that, and I really salute them for doing so.
As they were carrying the packs, I noticed many of them had been constantly shifting the weight of the pack to different parts of their body, in order to make the carrying of the relief aid packs feel more bearable, when they were running.
And from their experiences I could visualise how difficult these packs are to carry – and thus, at this point, I can only imagine the struggles of disaster victims in their attempts to traverse many kilometres in unforgiving conditions, especially with time not on their side.
Said Alexander Kern, 26, working in sales & marketing at Mercedes Benz, “I was carrying the pack and it was tough. This pushes you to the limits and so it really opened my eyes up and gave me a good idea of what these people go through. No words can describe what I had experienced today.”
CHASING DOWN THE PACERS
During the second half of the race, I found myself chasing down the pacers, first the 1hour 20minute ones around the 4km mark, before then catching the 1hour 10minutes ones in the final kilometre of my run.
I sprinted past the finish line just over an hour later, and collected my running medal and a bottle of water, before catching my breath and taking a look around the post-race carnival booths.
The 10km race was won by Nimesh Gurung, who had completed it in 34 minutes and 36 seconds.
MEANINGFUL ACTIVITIES AFTER THE RACE AIDED THE CAUSE
There had been plenty of meaningful activities after the race, including humanitarian themed games, one of in which I won a couple of stuffed toy pandas for myself. Photo booths were also on hand, for runners to take photos as a souvenir from their race.
As well there was a deployment tent on site, where participants could view the interior of an actual relief tent and items that Mercy Relief would use on the ground, a selection of photos of Mercy Relief at work in the field with the communities they serve and other interactive games.
When walking inside, I had thought this deployment tent display was extremely meaningful and really gave me a sense of perspective of exactly what goes on when a natural disaster strikes.
I admit that living in Singapore, where there are normally no major disasters, many of us are quite fortunate to be living comfortable lifestyles with all of our basic necessities such as food, shelter and clean water, being comfortably met. So then, this had been definitely an eye-opener indeed.
MERCY RELIEF HAS DONE A GREAT LEVEL OF AWARENESS
Said Valeria Smith, 28, a Consultant, “I think that Mercy Relief has done a great level of awareness with this race and the booths. I browsed through the booths and it really made me more aware of this cause.”
Continued another runner, Adam Snyder, 28, a video editor in the advertising industry, “if you are going to run and do something good at the same time, it is a great feeling. This is a meaningful cause and I feel glad to be supporting it today.”
MERCY RELIEF IS PLEASED WITH OUTCOME
Director of Mercy Relief, Zhang TingJun, was pleased with the turn out and the response to the event. She said, “With today’s public engagement and the days leading up to the preparation for Ground Zero – Run for Humanity, Mercy Relief had wanted to encourage a sense of compassion and empathy in our next generation.”
She added, “In this day and age, it is a key that we gain a better understanding of the humanitarian experience and walk a day in the life of a survivor, aid worker and volunteer. The support we have received from our corporate partners, ambassadors, volunteers and the public, has shown us that we are on the right track.”
MARKING WORLD HUMANITARIAN DAY ON 19 AUGUST
Following the event, Netball Singapore’s players also joined in the distribution of at least 500 relief packs to low income families of Tampines GRC, Jaliyah Singapore and Pertapis, to mark Mercy Relief’s observance of World Humanitarian Day on 19 August – this is a day to pay tribute to all people affected by humanitarian crises and those who lost their lives in humanitarian service.