Charity races for the needy are ramping up in popularity in Singapore but that does not dampen the enthusiasm of those who wish to donate in any way they can. With more joining races and coming down on the weekends to take part in running for their chosen cause, charitable races are booming with popularity.
This was the case when I attended the World Vision’s Race for Relief, the running event that is hoping would make a difference in the situation happening in East Africa at the moment.
For those not in the know, in areas of East Africa such as South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, 22 million people are at the mercy of starvation and death as civil war and drought continue to ravage the area. World Vision Singapore decided to pool their efforts together so that they can help to raise awareness as well as fundraise for the event.
On the 15th of July, I stepped onto the Riverside Walk near the Indoor Stadium, close to the Kallang Wave Mall, to take part in the inaugural Race For Relief. The event was not too large in scale, and there was only two categories to choose from.
Runners could choose to run in three different categories: Drought Relief, War Relief, and Hunger Relief, and team captains were elected for each group. Known names in the Singapore community, such as Dr Leslie Tan (creator of ieatishootipost), long distance runner Mok Ying Rong, and actress and World Vision ambassador Belinda Lee filled the roles with much aplomb. Actors Andie Chen and Kate Pang also made an appearance.
Off I Go
As a beginner runner, and not having ever done an actual run before, I figured the Race for Relief event would be a good place to start: a 5km distance that could easily be handled and it would certainly add more fun if there was a challenge involved. I was hoping to join the item challenge, where runners would have to run with their team item to simulate the items the needy had to carry on their backs, in order to represent their team. However it was full up, so I resigned to just doing the entire route with my personal belongings instead.
As the event started, the route took us up the steps of the National Stadium, around the 100 Plus Promenade, then taking us to run along the river via a bridge and around the bay, making a loop back to the race’s starting line. A reasonably route, as seen by the stronger runners who were already on their way back when most of us were still halfway through the route. Most of us still met the challenge with aplomb, and it helped that the event was not too hard on us beginners.
One thing I would suggest for future improvements would be for race organisers to consider more challenging items for runners to run with. While Drought Relief was standardised in most parts with runners having to run with similar water gallons, Hunger Relief runners had to carry a small bag of potatoes which was less a challenge and more of a small nuisance to manage, as it weighed slightly less than the water.
In some cases, the vibrations of running actually caused the bags to rip open and small potatoes to fall out during the run. Perhaps it was to simulate how unpredictable running with food could be?
Another suggestion I would also suggest would be for the race organisers to consider a better route if they plan to do a loop in the race route. The route as chosen was partially covered in grass and less open, with no barriers between those coming and going. At some points, runners who were making their way back to the finishing line nearly ran into the slower runners and it was confusing trying to figure out whether keeping left was a good idea to avoid accidents.
Time to Get Creative
It was fascinating to see how some participants came prepared to carry their products creatively. Before the event started, I had already spied upon some War Relief team members filling their War Relief packs with their own personal belongings, but some had upped the ante by arriving with an entire bedroll, a basket full of food items, and other belongings, only limited by the participants’ imagination. The Drought Relief and Hunger Relief were less inspired, but still many had chosen creative ways of carrying their items.
One runner called Jeff Tan did his item challenge using a baby carrier to insert his water tank in. As a member of the Drought Relief team, he chose the item because he felt that in comparison to the other two teams, water was a very meaningful and important item and he wanted to show it in the challenge. Showing me the baby carrier, Jeff said, tongue in cheek, “ I’m pretty lucky I had this before-hand, the water tank weighs less than my baby so it was easier than expected.”
Others who did not join the Item Challenge did so to show their support for the situation happening in East Africa. One company, JCO, had many of their employees decided to join the event and run together because they had seen a video showcasing the plight of famine in the region, and wanted to do something about it. Running together was one solution.
The employees chose to run together as a group and it helped because most of them were amateur runners. When asked, one representative of the group chimed that one thing that made her feel good about the event was her friend and colleague, who she had been separated from, had actually waited for her in certain areas and it made her feel lucky to have friends in the run. “I want to make sure the people in Africa have the same feeling, that like my friends who didn’t abandon me when running, they should not have to do this alone. Your path in this journey will never be lonely.”
Another group, which consisted of friends, did the event because they felt the event was a worthy cause. For most of the run, they stuck together and walked and ran together, and it helped that the weather was good. One of them had even brought her granddaughter along, and explained that it was time her granddaughter understood the significance of charity. The little girl chimed in yelling that her experience was a ‘six’ when asked if she enjoyed herself on a scale of one to five.
All in all, it was heartening to hear so many reasons why people would do a charity run, and the various ways they did it. Whether through family, friends, companies, or fellow strangers, many found ways to channel their love and that was most important that day.