This morning, “ordinary” runners got the chance to run alongside some 200 intellectually, visually and physically challenged runners.
That took place at the inaugural Runninghour 2015 race. Organised by the Runninghour Co-Operative, the main purpose of staging such an event, was to use mainstream sports as a platform to promote integration and nurture an inclusive Singapore. At the same time, Runninghour hopes that the race will act as a rallying call for Singaporeans to come together and show their support towards integrating people with special needs. As such, some visually impaired Runninghour members, together with their guides, acted as pacers for this race – for the 1 hour as well as the 1 hour 10 minutes pace categories for the 10km race.
The Blind Run categories were the highlight of the event
The highlight of the race though, were the 5km and 10km Blind Run categories. Here, runners were paired up with a buddy and they would run the first 1km of the race blind – the first 500m with a blindfold covering their eyes, and the second 500m acting as a guide for their blindfolded running buddy. The rest of the run though, proceeded as normally – with no blindfolds.
These special categories took place alongside the 5km Fun Run and the 10km Competitive Run categories.
An eye-opening experience for many of the runners
Many runners thought that the Blind Run was definitely an eye-opening experience. Said Klaus Lucke, 47, a Risk Manager, “The first couple of metres for the Blind Run was scary as I was totally unaware of what was going on around me. I didn’t feel like I was under control at all. That’s the main difficulty of running blindfolded – not only do you have to completely entrust yourself to somebody else, but also, you have to be brave enough to give up your own fear. After a while though, I got the hang of it and I felt ok with it for the rest of the 500m Blind Run. But I don’t think I’ll be comfortable running an entire 10km race with a blindfold though.”
Agreed Tan Yoong Chuan, 28, an Engineer, “As this was the first time I have ever been blindfolded to run, I felt quite afraid at first. My biggest challenge was that I had to be able to trust my partner completely.”
However, fellow runner Tung Zhi Yan, a 27-year-old Post Graduate student in Semi Conductor Studies, begged to differ about the blind running experience. He said, “Once I was able to trust my running guide, we were able to run very smoothly. This could also have been because the people were already spaced out by then as I was running the second 500m blindfolded. And once I got into the mood of blind running, I felt as though I could run for longer. I wish the organiser had extended the Blind Run segment to 1km because 500m was a bit too short.”
Being a running guide for a visually impaired runner also has its own challenges
However, visually impaired running isn’t purely about the blind runner, as many of the participants in the Blind Run event discovered. While it may sound easy to simply act as a guide for someone who can’t see, many runners found out that it was, in fact, the opposite.
Said Ley Cheng Ng, 36, who works in Technical Sales, “As a guide runner for someone who can’t see, I realised that communication is really important. You have to watch out for your partner. Usually when we run, we are very much on our own and don’t think of other runners. But as a guide runner, you must care about the other party and really tell him or her everything.”
“For example, in the first couple hundred metres, a bit of the road was uneven and I forgot to tell that to my buddy. She tripped because of this, and it almost scared her off during the rest of the Blind Run,” she continued.
Added her running buddy Katherine Lim, 45, an Accountant, “It truly makes us appreciate what a visually impaired runner feels and goes through when they run. It’s tough to have complete confidence in your guide. That is because the guide has to warn the blind runner of every single small uneven ground, as this will make a difference between whether the blind runner trips, or will stay on his or her feet.”
“As a whole, the experience this morning really opened up my mind to what these runners experience every day when they run and I really admire them for being brave enough to do what they do,” Lim continued.
Added Lucke, “I have seen the visually impaired runners and their guides of Runninghour run before and I have always been so amazed by how the blind runners are able to run so fast despite their disability, and how the guides are able to feel so comfortable with guiding another runner. Some of them also run at impressive speeds, such as completing 10km within one hour. I really got some new insights into what the visually impaired runners, as well as their guides, face on a daily basis.”
Grateful to “ordinary” runners for giving Blind Running a try
Blind runners such as Ong Hock Bee, 50, a receptionist, are definitely grateful to the “ordinary” runners for giving the experience a go – and opening themselves up to what visually impaired running is all about.
He said, “If runners have the guts to do it, they will be able to experience exactly how the blind runs and open their eyes up to what it’s like. I get the feeling that people don’t really understand the visually impaired. I do my training runs at East Coast Park every weekend and some people pass nasty remarks to me and my friends. But if you have the chance to get blindfolded and run, it will make you more understanding and less nasty towards us. I really hope that today’s event will go some way to increasing awareness amongst the running community.”
The event was a resounding success
That said, Hock Bee, who also acted as a 1 hour pacer for the 10km run, feels that the event was definitely a success. He said, “Everything went by so smoothly and I could hear that everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and having fun, so I am happy.”
Agreed Ong Meng Hong, 44, a Runninghour committee member who was one of the race coordinators, “I am generally happy that the response to the first-ever Runninghour race was so good and that so many people were sporting enough to come down early in the morning to take part in the Blind Run. The participation for this morning’s run has definitely beaten our expectations. I must admit that we were initially afraid at how this was going to turn out, but looking at the crowd and participation, we want to do something like this every year. But we will welcome any new ideas or feedback.”
“And we hope that after today’s event, word will spread and this will let more people know what we are doing and will come to join our cause,” Meng Hong added.
Other Blog Posts
- Runninghour Integration Workshop
- Sundown Marathon – A Challenge for Blind Runners
- Sundown Marathon – Handcyclists in Action