Ready to run
SINGAPORE — We’ve seen the wacky fun runs and those involving one’s favourite cartoon character — such as the Hello Kitty Run Singapore and the My Little Pony Friendship Run. They are undeniably popular, with thousands of people joining in the fun and showing off their medals after they dash across the finish line.
But there are more runs emerging in the calendar that boast a social purpose, as they aim to help those in need while raising awareness about the issues.
Ground Zero Run, which will be held on Aug 14 for example, aims to highlight the strength and perseverance of disaster survivors. It also recognises the contributions of global aid workers.
Participants run with a “relief pack” weighing 5kg to 7kg on a 5km or 10km route. The relief packs — filled with food such as rice, sugar, salt and cooking oil — will later be distributed to low-income families in Singapore.
“We looked at the humanitarian stories of the survivors and their struggle to obtain urgent supplies in the wake of a disaster. That is why we want to curate this experience for participants to make it meaningful and give them an insight into the life of a survivor,” said Zhang Tingjun, executive director of Mercy Relief, which organised the Ground Zero Run.
Its inaugural edition last year saw 1,100 participants, and organisers hope to attract around 2,000 people for the second edition.
Another new run that wants to create a unique experience for participants so they can better understand the plight of others is Runninghour, which was launched last year.
Comprising a 5km and 10km route, participants run alongside other visually, intellectually and physically-challenged runners as they go through a “Blind Run”, where two runners are tethered to each other with a band. Runners take turns to be blindfolded, with the other acting as a guide.
The purpose? To promote and provide support to persons with special needs as they participate in physical activities, and to provide opportunities for them to interact with their peers.
“Runninghour actually started as a running club. It stemmed from the idea of using an accessible, affordable sport like running to create a supportive, integrated and empowering environment for persons with special needs,” said Ong Meng Hong, co-vice-chairman of Runninghour Co-operative Limited, which organised the run. “We later witnessed how the early members are benefiting from the sport so we decided to start our inaugural nationwide public run in 2015.”
On why they came up with the Blind Run concept, Ong said: “We want the other participants from the mainstream community to experience and have a feel how it is like to run blindfolded, and how it feels to guide a blindfolded buddy to run with no fear.”
Run organisers say they are seeing a trend of Singaporeans becoming more charitable.
“Singaporeans increasingly want to give back and be heard, and also stay active physically,” pointed out Zhang. “By combining the two, running for a cause is a great way to stay healthy and invest in helping others.”
Indeed, according to the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre’s Individual Giving Survey in 2014, individuals in Singapore have demonstrated a strong commitment to give, with total donation amounts of S$1.25 billion, a 14 per cent rise from S$1.10 billion in 2012.
“We know that Singapore is blessed and that Singaporeans are generous people,” said Dr Lydia Seong, chief executive officer of Leukaemia and Lymphoma Foundation, which organises the LLF (Love.Life.Fun) Walkathon. Now in its fourth instalment, the walkathon is about raising awareness about blood cancers and raising funds to support needy patients’ treatments. Dr Seong said they organised this walk to give Singaporeans an opportunity to do good while engaging in their favourite activity together with their families and friends.
Older runs are also noticing rising attendance numbers.
For Singtel-Singapore Cancer Society Race Against Cancer (RAC), for example, the number of registered participants started with 3,648 in 2009 (when it was first launched), “with registration numbers increasing each year by 20 per cent”, said Dr Ang Peng Tiam, chairman of the RAC Committee.
“Last year, the run saw an amazing response of close to 8,000 people even though it was later cancelled due to hazy weather conditions,” Dr Ang continued.
Similarly, Run & Raisin has seen attendance growing steadily. The annual charity run and carnival organised by TOUCH Young Arrows — one of the children’s services under TOUCH Community Services — attracted 1,500 runners when it first started in 2011. That figure grew to about 2,400 runners last year, said Anita Low-Lim, director of community relations at TOUCH Community Services.
TOUCH Community Services organised a new run called The Make A Difference Race last year, which aims to create a more accepting society and fight social stigma related to depression and mental health. Pointing out that public mass runs are highly effective in engaging people on social causes, Low said she wants to “adopt this similar approach for the second race (The Make A Difference Race) to rally the community to fight against the social stigma”.
The Make A Difference Race will have a theme Light of Hope for its second run in October, and TOUCH is organising it as an evening run, “incorporating lighting elements to accentuate the theme”, she added.
“As the public’s interest in charitable running events has increased in tandem with the general trend of adopting running as a lifestyle, our runs have seen positive responses as we continue to promote awareness of social causes and enable more of them to engage in a cause-based activity”, she said.
“For both races, we hope to attract up to 3,000 sign-ups each. More importantly, we also want this race to increase public awareness and inspire the community as well” Low said.
With such significance attached to these races, no wonder people are slowly taking to these runs. Apart from encouraging Singaporeans to lead a healthy lifestyle, it also enables them to give back. Now, isn’t that killing two birds with one stone?
Singtel- Singapore Cancer Society Race Against Cancer: July 3
Runninghour: July 10
Run & Raisin: Aug 13
Ground Zero Run: Aug 14
The Make A Difference Race: Oct 8