Running event - with a twist

Mr Goh Giin Huat (left), 40, with running guide Kelvin Lin Yong Wen, 30, during their weekly training session. Mr Goh will be one of five visually handicapped pacers in the Runninghour race.

AN INAUGURAL running event that includes a "blind run" has already filled up almost half of its 3,000 slots.

Billed as an event to promote the integration and inclusion of people with disabilities, Runninghour 2015 features 5km and 10km runs, and participants have the option of running blindfolded.

For the "blind run", runners pair up and take turns leading each other blindfolded for 500m each.

The event on March 22 at Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade has so far attracted 1,400 participants, who will be running alongside roughly 250 persons with disabilities.

About 600 runners have opted to do the "blind run".

In another first, the event will have five visually handicapped persons, accompanied by guides, taking on the role of pacers.

Pacers are those who run at a predetermined speed during long-distance events to help participants finish at a specific time.

One such pacer, Mr Goh Giin Huat, 40, said he was excited to encourage runners in the 10km segment of Runninghour.

"Because earlier on, when I couldn't run, people encouraged me," he said.

Mr Goh, a guitar instructor, started running only in 2012 when he and his visually handicapped friends were asked to join Runninghour, an informal support group started in 2009 by Mr John See Toh, 54, and his wife Chan Jan Siang, 37, both educators.

This was set up for a group of students who graduated from a special needs school - Delta Senior School - to jog together.

Mr See Toh, who is now at Metta School, used to teach there.

The group holds weekly runs, with 65 to 100 participants.

Initially, Mr Goh not only disliked running, but also had trouble with the movements.

"Especially because I was born blind, I did not know what the running form is like - how to actually move your feet, the arm swing and all that," he said.

"What is natural to you might not be very natural to the blind."

From swinging his arms while running "like I was punching people" to becoming a pacer who will help others complete 10km in 70 minutes, Mr Goh has come a long way in 21/2 years of training with Runninghour.

Last October, the support group became Singapore's first sports cooperative, with 100 trained guides and 80 members with special needs.

It said in a previous interview that it chose to be a cooperative and not a charity as it wanted to be self-reliant.

Now it hopes to publicise the stories of people such as Mr Goh through its first nation-wide run.

Mr See Toh said he wants exposure for the co-op and to make it a household name for those with special needs.

"This is also really to draw out more special needs people to do running, to do sports," he said, adding that the event is free for those with special needs, be it a physical or intellectual disability.

Ms Chan said of the special runners: "Most of them gain a lot of self-esteem from being able to run.

They never thought that they could run such a distance."

Registration for Runninghour 2015 is open till Feb 25.

This article was first published on Jan 30, 2015.
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