Blind runners back for more

Awesome athletes supporting sports for the blind.

November 2013 update:

Our friends, the awesome athletes who play tennis and run marathons in spite of being blind, are back!

They and their guides have been training hard and many are going for longer distances in this year's Standard Chartered Marathon.

They're also raising funds to promote sports for the visually impaired through the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped.

The funds will be used to continue developing sports programmes such as Soundball Tennis, dragon boating, rock climbing and running.

Ng Sook Zhen, who's been instrumental in promoting sports for the visually impaired in Singapore, said "the main driver behind continuing with the programme in 2014 is the progress we have observed in the visually impaired developing their fitness, social skills and general well-being".

Wan Wai Yee and her six friends ran the 10km event at Singapore’s Standard Chartered Marathon in December. Nothing unusual you’d think, except that all seven of them are blind.

They were a bit nervous. Not because they’re blind, but because it was their first big running event and most of them had just started running a few months before.

But they were keen, and had been training hard with their volunteer guides, who ran the race with them.

The result? Personal bests for all the blind runners.

They were exhausted at the end but exhilarated, especially because they raised more than $9,000 through their run, so that more blind folk can enjoy sports.

We spoke to Wai Yee before her run, about how she feels when she runs, what she thinks of her sighted running guides and what her secret is to persevering.

Our Better World: How did it feel to run outdoors for the first time?

Wai Yee: Picture this right — it was drizzling, but we still went out to run. So it was quite a strange feeling to be getting in the rain and running.

I felt kind of free. It’s very freeing because we’re not really holding on to someone, we’re just holding on to a cloth right, which the other party (sighted running buddies) is holding as well, in a way not having to hold another person’s elbow or shoulder or whatever.

We hold a longish cloth so we are sort of connected. If there’s any obstacles our buddies will let us know, so I find that I can just run at my own pace, at whatever fitness level I am in...I just run.

How long have you been running?

I started running outdoors in May (2012). Ya it was something very new for me and I like that, but that’s something you really gotta work on, the running.

Before that I’d been running on the treadmill since last year. But on a treadmill, it can be boring sometimes so you don’t really have the freedom to really go anywhere, right? You’re just, you know, running on the treadmill, round and round and round.

I like the outdoors.

Tells us about the volunteers for your whole programme.

Oh they’ve been very marvellous. What they’ve done is try to build a bond. We’ve tried to build a bond with them as well.

When we run, we talk to each other and we understand how each other works and they get feedback from us and we get feedback from them. At the end you know, we work together as a team.

What are your dreams?

If you talk about running, well at the end of this year we’re going to do the 10km run for the Standard Chartered Marathon, so that’s the immediate goal.

As long as I complete it, it doesn’t really matter how fast I do it. I just want to complete this 10km.

After this year, I think I won’t stop running. I think it’s a waste to give it up. It’s quite difficult to get up to a certain fitness and then you give it up and it’s not easy to get back again.

So anyway, I hope to maybe at least maintain running 10k and hopefully improve on the time. I don’t know about running 21 and 42 — it’s quite daunting, it’s quite scary. I mean you’re plodding along for so many hours. But I think at least for the future, at least improve on my timing for the 10km.

For other sports, I’ve always wanted to do rock climbing and stuff like that. It’s quite challenging to scale up a wall and stuff so hopefully I’ll get a chance to do that.

What would you tell others?

I would say everybody is different, work at their own pace. Don’t look at someone else and say this person can run faster and I can’t because it will never work for you. You gotta look at yourself and say, oh this week maybe I ran 10 rounds. Maybe next week I’ll just run another one more round...and another one round after that. Just a bit more, you know?




Ashima Thomas


Anshul Tiwari