Ground Zero – Run for Humanity 2015 organised by Mercy Relief

Singapore’s first humanitarian run took place last Saturday morning at the Big Splash, in East Coast Park. Called Ground Zero – Run for Humanity 2015, the event is a first of its kind here and was organised by Mercy Relief, a non-governmental humanitarian organisation which wanted participants to experience what happens to victims of natural disasters.

The 10km Race against Time has just flagged off.

The 10km Race against Time has just flagged off.

Said Zhang TingJun, 33, Executive Director of Mercy Relief, “This humanitarian run is an exciting run for us. We organised this because we wanted to have those in Singapore, experience what it is like on the ground during a disaster.”

More than 1,100 runners took part in the two categories

More than 1,100 participants took part in the two categories – a 5km Relief Aid Challenge and the 10km Race Against Time.

Runners in the 5km Relief Aid Challenge are on their way.

Runners in the 5km Relief Aid Challenge are on their way.

500 ran in the 5km Relief Aid Challenge, where they carried a 5.1kg relief pack that had been filled with typical disaster supplies such as rice, sugar, salt and cooking oil throughout the run.

Added Zhang, “When we hand out relief packs to disaster victims, they are usually between 5 to 10kg and survivors, often kids or elderly people, have to sometimes walk up to 10km to collect these and carry them home (in mountainous and rocky conditions too). For this 5km walk, we wanted the participants to empathise what the survivors go through.”

5km runners continue streaming out with their 5.1kg packs.

5km runners continue streaming out with their 5.1kg packs.

The other category had been the 10km Race Against Time, where runners challenged themselves to complete 10km within 80 minutes.

Explained Zhang, “This category depicts the urgency that the survivors must go through, when they flee to safety during a disaster.”

Runners chill out after their run.

Runners chilling out after their run.

The participants had fun and learnt a lot at the same time

Participants at the event not only had a great time but they also felt that it had taught them more about what happens during a natural disaster.

Queuing up for a game.

Queuing up for a game.

Said Valentino Khoo, 30, working at Singapore Pools, who took part in the 5km Relief Aid Challenge, “Normally we run without a load, so this was my first time running with one. I found it both mentally and physically tiring. There were also people constantly changing the position of the load i.e. from left hand to right hand and their back, so many others also found it hard. It was something different and interesting though.”

Added Natalie Despiegeleire, 43, an architect in private practice, who joined the same 5km category, together with her son, “It was great fun and a well-organised event. I am happy that the haze had temporarily disappeared to allow this run to take place. It was good fun. The weight was quite heavy though and carrying it over the 5km distance wasn’t easy.”

Proud finishers.

Proud finishers.

The runner continued, “But it is nothing compared to what the victims would have to go through, though. Also, we are well-fed but they may be hungry and tired, so we can never truly mimic what they experience. It was good to be a part of this, though.”

27-year-old Yasmin Banu, who works as a Singapore Airlines cabin crew, also agreed. She said, “When you run with something, it really weighs you down so it is harder. But I think what we are doing is a fraction of what the disaster victims have to go through in reality. They do not have water and electricity and I cannot imagine the struggles that they would experience. It is a luxury for us – we are comfortable and in our running attire and we are prepared to carry these 5kg loads, but they are not.”

Performers are singing on stage.

Performers singing on stage.

Had a good impression of the event

For the event itself, Banu, who was there with her partner, had a good impression of it. She explained “The event was well done and was family-oriented, with many couples, families and colleagues joining together. We were all running not to win a medal or get a free drink or goodie bag, but for the cause itself. I think more people should take notice and appreciate the efforts of such charities like Mercy Relief, as they are a non-profit organisation, doing a good job with providing aid to disaster victims.”

Added Eric O’Donnell, a 45-year-old lawyer who ran in the 10km Race Against Time, “I was here for the charity aspect and we all enjoyed ourselves. The whole concept and idea of this race was unique and interesting.”

Never too young to start running and helping humanitarian causes!

Never too young to start running and helping humanitarian causes!

O’Donnell also said, “The event increased my awareness of how difficult providing aid to disaster victims is, ranging from running around and getting the bags of provisions into the centre, to distributing them out to individual people and ensuring that as many people as possible are able to get the necessary supplies.”

Lau Ye How, a 39-year-old statistical officer, also shared his sentiments. Said Lau, who had competed in the 10km Race against Time, “The message of delivering aid as soon as possible, definitely came across well through this running race. It was a really well-organised and refreshing event, with a  good cause behind it.”

Displaying their prizes from the games.

Displaying their prizes from the games.

Good turnout and feedback

The organisers were very heartened by the turnout and the positive feedback. Said Zhang, “This was our first time running the event in Singapore and we did not know what to expect. But it has been heartening and encouraging to see how warmly people have responded and taken up the challenge.”

Runners getting insights, through photos, of what happens during a disaster.

Runners getting insights, through photos, of what happens during a disaster.

Added Zhang, “We would definitely organise this race again as the feedback has been good. This year we had decided to start small and give it a shot. The race is really about raising awareness of what Mercy Relief does and bridging that gap of knowledge about what happens on the ground during a disaster.”

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