At the SportCares CareRunners clinic, participants got to rub shoulders with celebrated long-distance runner Haile Gebrselassie from Ethiopia.
SportCares' CareRunners with Haile Gebrselassie (Photo by Dave Poh/SportCares)
Despite his Olympic gold medals, World Championship titles and numerous world records in the marathon category, Haile Gebrselassie spent two hours with the SportCares CareRunners as a friend and running buddy, instead of the world-renowned athlete that he is.
During the two-hour long clinic held at the Singapore Sports Hub, Haile talked and joked with many of the participants, most of whom were youth ranging from the age of eight to teenage-hood. These participants were given the opportunity to interact and learn from Haile thanks to SportCares, which aims to encourage youth to give back to the community, promote personal empowerment and provide more social inclusion through sports.
Haile shared his journey in becoming one of the most accomplished runners in the world with the participants.
Haile Gebrselassie joked and talked with the participants at the SportCares Running Clinic (Photo by Dave Poh/SportCares)
He said: “I grew up in the countryside and started running at two-years old – I was helping my parents, getting water from the well.” In addition to assisting his parents, he also ran 10 kilometres to and from school everyday, as he did not have transport available to him.
“I was nobody. Not good in my studies. (I’m not one of the) famous students that was surrounded by pretty girls,” he said, “When I was 14-years old, I wanted a chance to compete in school but the other athletes were bigger than me, so I had to push my teachers to let me compete, even though they said I am too young.”
He won that race, and his efforts were recognised by his principal. From there, he began representing his school more often, before moving on to international competitions.
Citing his own training schedule, comprising two sessions every day of the week, the highly decorated runner pointed out the importance of discipline and hard work. He encouraged the young participants to envision their goals, on and off the track, and put everything they had towards achieving them.
Dr Jia Jia with Haile Gebrselassie
Participants at the clinic were captivated by Haile’s easy-going and jovial personality, and took in all his advice eagerly. One of the youngest participants, inspirational YouTube personality Chua Jin Sen (also known as Dr Jia Jia), said: “It’s a really good opportunity to be able to meet him. I feel very excited after hearing him talk, and I want to run more now!”
SportCares' CareRunner Nurul Hanisa Bte Karim presented gifts to Haile Gebrselassie (Photo by Dave Poh/SportCares)
Nurul Hanisa Bte Karim, who trains in the SportCares CareRunners group every Tuesday and Thursday at CCAB, also expressed her gratitude over the clinic. “Not everyone has this chance,” said the 13-year-old. “I'll definitely apply what Haile said about discipline and hard work into my daily life,” Hanisa shared. In fact, she is already following in Haile’s giant footsteps. Shy and modest, Hanisa has been an active volunteer for several months because she believes in giving back to the community. “It has been a great experience with SportCares.”
Haile Gebrselassie with Singapore Blade Runner Shariff Abdullah (Photo by Dave Poh/SportCares)
Haile’s words had its impact on one of Singapore’s most famous runners as well. Mr Shariff Abdullah, or the Blade Runner as he is more commonly known, admitted that he left the clinic feeling motivated.
He said: “I feel so inspired to run more after attending this clinic! I usually train six days a week now, but after listening to Mr Haile, I feel that I should start training like him.”
Besides being inspired to train harder, Mr Shariff also said that he hopes for more of such SportCares clinics in the future, as it is an opportunity to impart useful advice and tips to the younger generation.
Haile running with SportCares CareRunners and enthusiasts from the running community that were invited to join the clinic. (Photo by Dave Poh/SportCares)
SportCares Ekiden Running team helmed by Mr Lawrence Wong (Minister for Culture, Community and Youth) at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2014. Read more here: http://on.fb.me/1yScQCl
(left to right) Nazir, Kristina, Aleks, Terence, Hayei, Minister Lawrence Wong, Jayamani, Asmah (Photo: SportCares)
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