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RUNNINGHOUR FEATURED MEMBERS IN RH2016
Name: Cassey Chia and Gwendoline Chow
Joined Runninghour: January 2015
Cassey: It is very interesting how I found Runninghour….I first chanced upon Runninghour via a documentary on T.V a few years ago where I saw a lady running beside a blind runner with a shoelace in a Triathlon. My comment then was ‘Wow! This is very good and wonderful to have someone guiding beside a blind person. How nice if someone can also run with Gwendoline (fondly known as Gwen in Runninghour)?’ (Gwen is my daughter and was born with profound developmental delay* and had been homeschooled since 4 years old.) It was a short clip and I didn’t know that it was Runninghour….Then in Dec 2014, a friend told me about Runninghour. I was overjoyed!!!! It was my heart’s desire!!! I was thankful as I was looking for a group where Gwen can participate and socialize and here comes Runninghour…It is the perfect group where running is the main activity. Running is very good for people with special needs; it helps them in their development and to function better in life. So without any hesitation I brought Gwen to join Runninghour …. At that time, I didn’t know that I can also join.
Cassey: It was an awesome experience for Gwen and for me. Our first run was at Toa Payoh Stadium. It was Gwen’s first experience running in a big group of people, she was very very excited! And she was willing to walk/run longer distance than she was used to. Looking at Gwen’s smiling face on that Saturday morning run brought joy to me too! Everyone was very friendly…..and we were welcomed into this big big family…..
Cassey: Never in my life would I think that Gwen (who has low muscle tone and can’t even complete a 1km walk/run before joining Runninghour) could make it to a running event … and Runninghour made it happened. She completed the 5km Runinghour2015: Run So Others Can race in March 2015 within 1 hour!!! Ever since joining Runninghour, she looks forward to going for the run every Sat….instead of running only with Mum (which can be quite boring); she gets to run with different people every week!!! And she makes new friends too! This is so wonderful… As for myself, coming to Runninghour allows me to make more new friends and also allows me to see how a life can impact another…..lovely!
Cassey: Runninghour is a very heart-warming group with lovely people coming from different walks of life sacrificing their Saturday morning with only one intention- to run so that others with special needs can run or walk along with them. It is a wonderful group where you can also see people with special needs helping and encouraging another special needs friend….It’s really an awesome group!
Cassey: As a mother with special needs daughter, I just want to THANK ALL OF YOU for the love and thoughts for people with special needs! We love Runninghour!!! (*A developmental delay is any significant lag in a child’s physical, cognitive, behavioral, emotional, or social development, in comparison with norms – Encyclopedia.com)
Name: Charmaine Tan Xing En
Joined Runninghour: January 2016
Charmaine: During a seminar conducted by Dr. Wong Meng Ee, a fellow Visually Impaired (VI) mentioned Runninghour (RH) in passing and it immediately caught my ears. The very next day I called up Singapore Association of Visually Handicapped (SAVH) to enquire about RH and was thus linked up with one of the committee members. After spending long periods of time in illness, I realized that life is precious and that I should live every moment of my life to the fullest. I hoped that by joining RH I can develop an active lifestyle as well as expand my social circle through meeting people from all walks of life.
Charmaine: My very first guide was a lovely lady named Diane. She was encouraging and patient with me. Firstly, she advised me to start slow as it was my first run. She then urged me to try a slow jog and assured me that I am the one to decide when to rest and when to continue the run. She even taught me a few tips in running so that less pressure is placed on my knees. Throughout the session, we kept up a bubbly conversation. I learnt that we both love Literature and are interested in learning other languages. On the whole, it was an invigorating experience for me and I finished the session having no doubt that I have joined the right group..
Charmaine: Taking part in Runninghour not only spurred me to exercise and become stronger physically, the vibrant environment and openness amongst members has also helped me become more cheerful and less prone to negative emotions. Now whenever I am faced with adversities, I can tell myself that “You’re not alone, there are other people facing the same problems as you. If they can overcome theirs, so can I!”
Charmaine: Don’t hesitate to raise any concerns regarding your participation in RH, be it the amount of exercise or running attire etc. Also, the guide does not necessary have to determine the pace of your run. If you feel you have to reduce your speed or even slow down to a walk, there is nothing wrong with it. What matters is that you enjoy yourself thoroughly.
Charmaine: Ever since I decided to step outdoors and interact with strangers, I have never regretted it. From the socially awkward introvert, I have transformed into a more optimistic and approachable person. I hope other disabled individuals will also pick up the courage to come out of their comfort zone to explore the colorful aspects of the world out there.
Name: Daniel and Eddison Tan
Joined Runninghour: September 2015
Daniel: I found out from Mr. John See Toh*, the founder of Runninghour, when my wife and I attended our son, Eddison’s Kota Tinggi pre-camp briefing session at Metta School in September 2015. (*John is a teacher at Metta School) We decided to join RunningHour as we believe running can build determination and confidence which in turn brings health and happiness (endorphins effect).
Daniel: During the first running session, I was amazed and deeply touched to see so many passionate individuals come together. Eddison and I felt really good as the members are a cohesive group of like-minded enthusiasts giving strength and encouragement to their buddies along the way.
Daniel: The members are cherished people of different race with big and kind heart, voluntary/giving their time and effort to this social cause that they all believe in. That changed my perspective towards society. I’m now convinced that we are no longer a Kiasu society.
Daniel: Just drop by during one of the running session and experience it yourself. A thousand miles start with the first step!
Daniel: Eddison has become more confident, sociable, independent and happier since he joined Runninghour. And he is always looking forward to the next running session.
Name: Joan Bowen Crew – Joan Khong, Karen Maricar, Tan Wee Yong and Chua Soon Hock
Joined Runninghour: August 2015
Joan Bowen Crew: Some of the Runninghour members were teachers and customers of our café – Joan Bowen Café was set up for special needs youths. The Runninghour members encouraged us to join. We are glad we did because the Runninghour group encourages participation from people with disabilities and we have witnessed this each week we are there.
Joan Bowen Crew: It was great, and our crew enjoys participating each week.
Joan Bowen Crew: We are very pleased that there is a social activity that our special needs crew can participate in without being discriminated or being left out.
Joan Bowen Crew: You will be made to feel to be part of the group, and as a volunteer, it will be a very rewarding experience.
Joan Bowen Crew: Keep the energy going! Congrats to all who made this possible and the volunteers who gave my crew friendship. Thank you!
Name: Clancie Ng
Joined Runninghour: 19 December 2015
Clancie: Sometime in December 2015, a friend who has the same interest as me (i.e. running) sent me the link to Runninghour (RH)’s Facebook page and told me she saw a Channel 8 TV program, Tuesday Report’s feature story on RH and she was interested in joining. She asked if I was interested as well, all for a good cause, and I said “Yes” (almost immediately!).
I read the background of RH on its website and felt a draw towards the community. Right then, I asked myself if I could make the commitment to RH as I knew that it wasn’t an activity where I could just come and go as I pleased. If I decided to join, it would be for the long run. Needless to ask what my answer was, I knew somewhere in my heart that RH was going to bring meaning to my life.
Clancie: The following week after I made the decision to join RH, I attended the Induction Program which was conducted monthly. At the induction, a few senior guides explained RH’s history, vision and mission, and what exactly we, the guides, would be expected to do at RH. After about 15-20 minutes of briefing, we were put to the real test – paired up with a fellow newcomer, we took turns to be blind-folded and learnt to guide, and be guided, to and fro across the main road outside of the Stadium, and up and down stairs of the HDB flats. Back at the Stadium, we took turns (still blind-folded) to guide our buddies through one round the track (all 400metres of it!).
If you think it doesn’t sound too difficult a task, I invite you to come try it for yourself. It was daunting! For fully-sighted people like myself, it was difficult to have to “lose our sight” for half an hour and to have to rely on our other senses such as hearing and touch, and most importantly, we had to put total trust in a stranger’s words. This experience let us have a glimpse of what it is like for our Visually Challenged Runners (VCRs).
Clancie: Ever since I joined RH, my mind has had a million and one ideas on: activities we can organize for our friends, how the guides can pump in more positive energy/ vibes into the group, new running routes for our Saturday runs, etc etc. It has been busy (in my brain), but good busy. I have never felt more “alive” and psychologically energetic than I am now!
Every Tuesday and Thursday, I look forward to 7pm to meet the RH group at Sports Hub for our weekday runs/training sessions and I am always excited to lead the group on Saturday mornings at various locations where our friends get to explore parts of Singapore that they don’t usually go to.
I am not kidding when I say that joining RH has helped me see another side of life, I have become a much happier and more confident person through guiding and being friends with our intellectually and visually challenged running buddies, and I am more than excited to be able to share this new lease of positive energy with everyone at RH. Being in RH has also reminded me how much most of us has taken what we have for granted. Meeting the buddies at RH who do not let anything bring them down greatly puts me to shame about lamenting over my own trivial problems. There is really so much we can all learn from our buddies, I think they are the ones who are “guiding” us and not the other way around.
Clancie: There really isn’t very much to think about it. We have our routine sessions every week and there is no obligation for anyone to join in every single session. We understand that everyone has different schedules and priorities in life. What we hope to achieve is for our buddies at RH to meet new friends, to have someone to talk to, or run/walk with. It doesn’t matter what your age or fitness level is as we need people of different fitness levels to guide our friends!
I think it sounds a little misleading when we see the word “Runninghour” – Is this purely a running group? What if we can’t run and can only walk? Do we have to do it for an hour? – I know there are so many questions we want to ask but I would say, just come and see if RH is something for you. If you feel that it is not, you can always opt out any time but the most important thing is for you to take that first step forward first. If you don’t even try, you would never know if RH is something you would like to participate in!
Clancie: RH is a wonderfully close-knit community that is like one big family! I have made many friends whom I can talk to and run with outside of RH sessions, and it’s great how we can all connect so easily, all because we have one major thing in common – Our love for RH and its members
Name: Jeffrey Leow
Joined Runninghour: December 2015
Jeffrey: Prior to joining Runninghour, I didn’t know that a running group such as this exists in Singapore.
It was a usual weekday evening for me; out jogging alone at the seaside. When I reached home, my wife told me about a TV program that had just ended. It was Tuesday Report Channel 8: Flavors of Life – the program featured a group called Runninghour. She briefly explained what the group does and encouraged me to check it out on the internet. Being my other half, she was very certain that I’ll be interested.
From the link, one particular video clip caught my attention, and that’s two Visually Challenged Runners (VCRs), taking part in a triathlon. With all odds stacked against them, their determination and courage helped them overcome the obstacles. They have proven that they are no different from us; all they need is a helping hand – a helping hand to guide them and conquer what many people think is impossible.
Initially, I was skeptical about signing up …. I was afraid that I might not be able to catch up with the VCRs or Intellectually Challenged Runners (ICRs). I am just a below average runner who had never jogged beyond 6km in all my weekly runs. Sensing my hesitation, my wife told me “take it like learning Mathematics, you just need more practice and it’ll yield results”. She’s right, my concern was unfounded, I am able to run slightly longer distances than before and the longest distance I ran is 12km.
Jeffrey: I was paired up with an ICR together with a senior guide in my first run so that I can observe how my senior guide did it. I must say that the ICR is a speedy, and he’ll talk and sing to himself. He also avoids eye contact when I try talking to him. It was a very tiring run as he zooms off without waiting for us, he’ll skip and hop at the same time and by the time we reached Marina Barrage – I was totally drained. As we headed back to the Sports Hub, he seemed to have exhausted his fuel half way through the return lap and began to walk, but we continued to jog beside and urge him to carry on. In the end, it was ‘walk-jog-run’ journey back to the Sports Hub and his mum was waiting anxiously there and was happy that his son had found not just another guide but a friend as well.
Jeffrey: Weekends are the only days that I can sleep in, but now I am always up as early as 5.15am on most Saturdays just so I can join my buddies for the weekend run. My wife has been very understanding and supportive on my decision to be a running guide. It’s usually my duty to buy dinner on weekdays, but she’ll take care of that if I’m out running with my buddies on Tuesday or Thursday evenings.
Jeffrey: You don’t need to be a Marathoner to join Runninghour, all you need is the passion, and the patience. Every week, you’ll be partnered with a different buddy – some are very bubbly, some are very reserved. As some of our ICR or VCR do not run, we’ll walk and chit-chat with them and you’ll be thrilled to see how much they enjoy the morning breeze and the beautiful sun shining on them.
Jeffrey: I’m totally inspired by the determination and courage of our ICRs and VCRs. Our encouragement is a motivating factor to our buddies, and their determination is what drives us as a guide. When I run together with them, I can feel their zest and along this journey, we forged a very strong bond. They are the motivating factor for me to continue guiding and running with them for as long as I can. Often, at the end of each session you’ll see many tired, but happy and smiling faces.
Name: Marc Chiang Chia Ling
Joined Runninghour: April 2015
Marc: I found out through my sister, Julie Chiang*, who was helping out with some PR work for the RunningHour2015 event that happened on March 2015. (*Julie is a Director with Asia PR Werkz who has committed to supporting Runninghour2016 as part of their agency’s corporate social responsibility program.)
As I am Visually Impaired (VI), running alone has become increasingly challenging. When I heard that that there are totally blind people who run, I was very interested to know how it’s done. This is in preparation for the day, if the unfortunate should happen, I will still be able to run.
Marc: Before I became visually challenged, I ran on my own without needing to hold a tether*. During my first run, I was not comfortable to run with the tether, which all other Visually Challenged Runners (VCRs) use with their guides when running. (*A tether could be a shoelace or towel. The VCR and the guide each hold one end of the tether when they run.).
It felt restricting and tiring. But after a few runs and progressive distances, I got used to it. This is especially during night runs, which I have problems with, I learnt to trust my guide (blind faith if you would like to call it!) completely, executing their instructions, either verbal or through tugging of the tether, without question. It’s a bond that is hard to form, but once formed, it’s hard to break.
Marc: The group is not just a gathering of like-minded and helpful people; it now feels like a family that cares for one another.
Other than runs, there are also many other sporting activities, e.g. swimming and cycling. It has showed me that sports can also be played by everyone. A VCR or Intellectually Challenged Runner (ICR) can participate in sporting activities, as long as they are willing to take the step forward.
Through Runninghour, I also got involved in Goalball (a team ball game designed specifically for VI athletes) and even represented Singapore as Captain of the first goalball team at the ASEAN Para Games in December 2015.
Marc: Make sure you have the time! ‘Cos you’ll be too busy participating in all their activities thereafter. Life has become much more interesting and fulfilling!
RUNNINGHOUR FEATURED MEMBERS IN RH2015
Name: Tan Siew Ling
Joined Runninghour: January 2013
Siew Ling: In December 2012, Runninghour members Wai Yee and Ivni invited me to run with the group, and much to their disbelief, I told them I would join in the January the following year. My first run with the group was at Buona Vista for a trial before the Green Corridor Run later that month. I was paired with Royce for my first run with a shoelace for Royce to guide me with. The trail was muddy, full of puddles and ended up in us not being able to complete the planned running route. It was an eventful first run for me.
Siew Ling: When I lost my sight at 11 years of age, I did not exercise at all. Even with my sight, I was not the exercise sort. Since taking up running, I feel fitter leading a more active life, and have forged strong friendships with the friendly members of Runninghour. I’m now more involved in sports now than ever before.
Siew Ling: Take it slow. As the visually impaired runner, you are the one setting the pace so communicate with your guide, tell them how you want to be alerted of changes. As a running guide, use distance alerts such as 10m ahead, 30 steps ahead, get ready in 3…2…1 to inform your partner. When blindfolded, just trust your guide, run and enjoy the whole experience. It’s a very liberating experience.
Name: Dennis Sim
Joined Runninghour: 2013
Dennis: My first running experience took place in early 2013 at a running session held at Toa Payoh stadium. It was my very first time running since I lost my sight and I was paired with an experienced running guide for the session. It was scary at first so I was running at a slow pace as I was worried that I would bump into someone else. My guide was assuring and constantly spoke to me as we ran so my confidence built up from there.
Dennis: For a few years after I completely lost my sight, I mostly confined myself at home and did not exercise at all. My health was in bad shape and I was in a constant state of depression. Since joining Runninghour, I am in much better shape both physically and emotionally. Not only has the co-op help me to regain my fitness, I have also made many new friends. Through our weekly runs, we share our life experiences and act as emotional support for one another. The sessions have given me confidence to deal with challenges that come with my disability.
Dennis: As the participants will be experiencing running blindfolded and as a running guide for the first time, it is vital to attend the pre-race workshops to get vital first-hand information from those with experience.