Taking place for the second time, the Runninghour: Run So Others Can race, is a running event that aims to promote integration for those with special needs and nurture an inclusive society in Singapore.
Greater social inclusion amongst all Singaporeans
So this running race, a one-of-its-kind in Singapore, gives able-bodied runners the chance to run alongside visually, intellectually and physically challenged runners.
The race had been organised by the Runninghour Co-Operative, an inclusive running club formed in April 2009 by a group of fitness enthusiasts who acted as buddy runners to special needs people, to encourage them to take up running. Since then, Runninghour has definitely come a long way, officially becoming a co-operative in 2015 and today they have more than 200 regular members.
And to achieve their aim of greater social inclusion in Singapore, the race had two interesting categories – a 5km Blind Run and a 10km Blind Run. Both categories were untimed and the race took place at Angsana Green, East Coast Park this morning.
At the race, able-bodied runners were paired up and they were given blindfolds to run, so that they would be able to feel for themselves what it is like to run as a visually impaired participant.
Had opened up the minds of runners taking part
Race participants had agreed that taking part in this race had opened up their minds to visually impaired running.
Said Zoe Chai, 23, a graduate from the National University of Singapore, “This was the first time I am running blindfolded and it was quite scary – at times I felt that I was going very fast when my pace was actually quite slow. I can only imagine what it must be like for those who are really visually impaired.”
Agreed Bala Murugan, 34, a Software writer at a bank, “Running is already difficult and the blindfold makes the act of running twice as hard – I found I needed to double my usual time do the running when I had been blindfolded.”
But still, Bala, who is an avid runner having completed full marathons and ultras, thought this type of event is very encouraging. He said “It is very encouraging and meaningful and we should have events like this more often.”
Nick Latimer, 43 and working in finance at a bank, also shared Bala’s sentiments. He said, “This run is for such a great cause – you don’t see too many running events of this nature. Visually impaired running is really something that you are not aware of at all, till you actually try it for yourself and it opens up your mind to a new world.”
Blind runner Steve Tee, 35 and working as a call centre supervisor, feels that such events definitely help to break stereotypes surrounding the visually impaired and other handicapped people.
Said Tee, “I think this is a good cause because it will spread more awareness of the visually handicapped. People do not understand that blind people like us can mix around with normal runners. So these types of events create a feeling of empathy.”
He added, “Today’s race was great and I think that Runninghour really should stage events like this on a more frequent basis.”
Runninghour is pleased with the response
Runninghour Chairman John See Toh, 55, who holds down a day job as a teacher, was pleased with the turnout and response of the 2016 event. Said See Toh, “We are happy because this year we had close to 400 runners with special needs, up from the 200 that we had attracted last year. That is really satisfying.”
Overall, the event had attracted about 2,100 runners and it was graced by Ms. Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.
Said the Minister, “This is a meaningful running cause that gave insight into the special needs people more so than any other run. I think it has also given them a cache to show the rest of the world what they are capable of.”
She added, “We have realised that persons with disability can do so much more than people believe, and that sports can be galvanising and educational to people from all walks of life. So we are encouraging persons with disability to step out of their comfort zones through such events, to show what they can do in sports and even excel in it, if they put their heart to it.”
Runninghour eventually aims to do just that – to connect with special needs people in the heartlands. Said See Toh, “We hope to bring the Runninghour race to the heartlands so that people living in these neighbourhoods can come out and join us, to improve their confidence and break out of their shells.”