RUN FOR NATIONAL UNITY 2016
Recently, I met a group of OKU (Disabled) Runners, with different types of disabilities, taking part in the Run For National Unity at Padang Merbok which was organised by HELP College to celebrate Malaysia Day on 16th September 2016. Some of them were in wheelchairs and some were deaf. Initially, I had thought that these OKU Runners were just part of a Public Relation exercise, in order to rally public support for the event, and I even doubted if these disabled participants were truly interested in running in the first place, or were they brought in just to satisfy the event owners and sponsors corporate social responsibility obligations. My prevailing thoughts may appear too cynical at first, but with so many commercial companies trying to cash-in on the popularity of running these days, it is difficult to separate the overhyped marketing gimmicks from the real hard facts. In this case, I had earnestly hoped that my damning theory was wrong, and that good will triumph against evil for all our sakes…
Rousing National Anthem
The continuous morning rain had threatened to spoil this Fun Run, as well as potentially disappoint 2,000 Runners who have been looking forward to this event for many weeks. Sheepishly, we all took shelter under the sponsor’s tents, while waiting anxiously for the organiser to make a final decision on the adverse weather. For a change, I was not running in this one. In fact, I was there as a mere spectator and to give moral support to my running wife Maryati. Nevertheless, I felt the anxiety of the gathered runners who must have been thinking to themselves, “Did I waste my national holiday sleep-in, and come all the way to KL for a run, only to be sent packing back home by the incessant rain?”
As the rain poured noisily outside the open tents, we stood and sang the national anthem in unison, and at that instant, I reflected on how lucky that we can always count on our beloved Nation to give us strength, hope and support in the good times and the bad times.
Then, the emcee announced that there would be a short delay in the scheduled flag-off times, and the run will continue despite the rain. The crowd were somewhat relieved that the show was not cancelled, and to their credit, they were not ready to let the wet weather dampen their spirits – not least, on this auspicious Malaysia Day Holiday.
Chasing The Dream
The waterlogged starter gun failed to work for the 7km flag-off, and with a slight hesitation, the first wave of runners eventually sped-off under the rain shower.
The second group of 5km rain-drenched Runners were flagged-off without a hitch.
The last wave of 3km Runners waiting for their turn were the OKU and Family Categories. The OKU Runners were rightly positioned in the front row, and there were 4 wheelchair-bound Runners plus Paraplegic and Deaf Runners. Immediately behind them, I could see the wet and shivering children being accompanied by their steady parents.
Bang! This time, the starter gun worked perfectly, and I watched them run out of the blocks frantically, as though some flesh-eating Zombie extras from “Train To Busan’ were chasing them. Judging by the intensity and focused determination on their faces alone, I could have mistaken this for the Rio Olympic Finals, instead of a 3km Fun Run. Perhaps, in their minds, this was their Olympic Dream, and who am I to tell them otherwise.
Dare To Dream
What impressed me most about the Runners, was the way they gallantly shook-off the pelting rain and ran in their new soggy wet shoes with such overwhelming pride and determination.
One particular OKU Skateboard Runner stood tallest among the crowd, with his phenomenal performance. His arms and legs were abnormal and practically as thin as toothpicks, and he moved around by using his hands to push himself on a skateboard. When the starter gun rang, he flew-off the blocks, and his arms were moving so fast, they were just a blur. He had used cheap slippers to protect his hands from the hard road surface.
I thought the uphill climb at the first bend was going to slow him down, but no way! Like an Elite Runner, his pace never faltered because he was pushing himself even harder up the hill.
Instantly, I realised that these OKU Runners were not part of a media circus – they really wanted to be there, and they demonstrated it by pouring their heart and soul into their running stellar performances. After the race, I introduced myself to several OKU Runners and congratulated them on their achievements.
With a huge grin, one of the wheelchair runner told me, “This was my first time joining a running event, and I hope to take part in more in the future.”
Speedy Sheela Surprised
At the Finish Area, I met-up with Elite Runner Sheela A/P Samivellu who is Malaysia’s Women’s Fastest Half Marathon Record-Holder, and she did it at the prestigious Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon on 7th August 2016.
Today, Sheela won the first runner’s up position, behind a faster Kenyan Runner, for the 7km Women Open category, and she said, “I was surprised that the organiser decided to continue with the race despite the heavy rain.”
She continued, “The race ended so quickly, and I finished with a time of 26 minutes, even before, I had a chance to properly warm-up!”
Watertight National Unity
With the Sun now drying the wet roads, Maryati and I walked back to Masjid Jamek LRT Station where our wet saga had begun earlier, and I wondered if my morning would have been as eventful and exciting without the torrential rain… perhaps, not.
📷More action-packed photos can be viewed at “Run For National Unity 2016″album on Happy Runner Page.
📝About The Author
Gus is the Founder of 😂Running Toons and a HIIT Fitness Coach💪. As a freelance ✒WRITER, he has contributed numerous insightful articles to The Star newspaper, Running Malaysia magazine, Cycling Malaysia magazine, Cycling Evolution magazine, Swim Bike Run magazine and more.
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