Disability no hurdle to Special Marathon 2013 participants

Annual race sees record turnout as thousands team up in bid to stamp out discrimination - and show that everyone can lead a healthy life

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 January, 2013, 4:59am

Thousands of people took part in a special race yesterday aimed at breaking down the barriers for people with mental disabilities.

A record-high turnout of 1,988 people took part in the three-kilometre and five-kilometre races of the iRun Hong Kong Jockey Club Special Marathon 2013, organised by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals.

And it was a team effort. In the two races, at Chinese University in Sha Tin, mentally disabled runners were teamed up with competitors with no disability. Men and women took part in the events across age groups.

"We wish to promote a sense of harmony in society," the group's chairwoman, Viola Chan Man yee-wai, said before she sounded the horn to start the race. "We want those with mental problems to know that they can live a healthy life," she said.

One of the competitors, Peter, was taking part in the race for a second year. He was partnered with a man with a mental disability and the two trained together before the race. Peter said that the training sessions were difficult at first because they were strangers.

Peter decided to change his training strategy to build some trust with his partner. He began running backwards during the sessions to motivate him as they ran. This also helped to control the pace as the two ran together, he said. And when they managed to run five kilometres in one of the training sessions, Peter said he felt more elated than he did after a 42-kilometre marathon.

Another runner said he wanted to go in the race to take a stand against discrimination: "We should treat people with mental illnesses like anyone else."

The five-kilometre men's race was won by Ng Shu-kui in 18 minutes and 58 seconds. The fastest woman, Chan Sok-ieng, finished in 22 minutes and 26 seconds. In the three-kilometre event across several age groups, Ho Sze-hon from the junior group won the race in 11 minutes, six seconds.