Burning lungs. Leaden legs. Pouring sweat. Why is anyone crazy enough to be drawn to running a race? Why is it such a timeless pursuit?
There’s an excellent quote from the book Born to Run that’s hard for any runner to forget: “The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other… but to be with each other.”
Even for the severely competitive, it’s memorable because it’s true. Running a race, like so much else, is not about the thing itself, but about the people, and having a common thread. From a shared challenge comes a unity difficult to describe.
In Singapore, running was recently used in a beautiful way: to find unity and solidarity with prisoners.
A national movement known as the Yellow Ribbon Project held its 5th annual Yellow Ribbon Prison Run, a 10K race in Changi Village. The Project has used community events – such as races – to dig into societal norms and alter how people see and understand those who have been incarcerated. For the past 10 years, the campaign has become a national humanization effort, focused on eliminating the stigma relentlessly attached to ex-offenders when they return home.
And what’s more, this inspiring embrace of grace has been successful. It’s changed the way people across Singapore relate to one another.
The race is a reflection of that newfound understanding. Dubbed “The Road to Acceptance,” the 2013 Yellow Ribbon Prison Run sent nearly 10,000 runners blazing down a route lined with prison sites. Changi Women’s Prison and Johore Battery were a few such standout points, and the finish line was inside the walls at the Changi Prison Complex, a major Singaporean detention center.
It’s creative, and it’s connective. Pair a physical challenge with a real, unfiltered view of prison, and you’ve got a strong recipe for a radically altered perspective. That shared experience is a simple but powerful thing.
Facing a challenge together is at the heart of the Prison Fellowship program that similarly connects a passion for racing with compassion for people: PF Racing.
PF Racing is about love: teams who compete do it not only for the sheer thrill of competition, but also to give to children with parents in prison. It’s as much about unity as the Yellow Ribbon race: as racers combat fatigue, heavy legs, and personal doubts, they are powered by remembering the obstacles faced by men and women in prison. How’s that for solidarity?