Running The 9 Dragons Ultra For Free To Run Charity

Right to sports -the exhilaration, positive joy,confidence and sense of purpose. Picture courtesy: Free To Run

trI am grateful to be able to travel and combining this with taking part in adventure racing – i.e. ultra and trail running races which I’m passionate about. Despite competing once in roughly every 3 months, I haven’t run for any charity since 2014. So this year it’s my big year going to new age group (don’t try to guess because the look is deceiving!). For the first race in 2018 which is called The Nine Dragons Ultra, I’m dedicating to this awesome charity – Free To Run.

Free Expression, Empowerment, and Equality for young women in conflict zones. Picture Courtesy: Free To Run

The race – 9 Dragons Ultra

It’s hard to explain how a race or location of a race can become part of my identity. My life changed a bit and I was unable to train like I normally would – moving from one country affected me. This time it’s not about doing a race that I could do well, but it’s about personal challenge and being part of an ultra-community. This race is tough with a tight cut-off time  – but I’m the creature who only considered something worthwhile if it is hard, challenging, and difficult to nail. With less than ideal preparation, I can only say that if I don’t give this a try, I won’t know my limit.

Why Free To Run?

Free To Run is formed in 2012 to supports those living in conflict areas (e.g. Afghanistan & Sudan) as well as those who have been forced to flee and live as refugees (e.g. South East Asia). 

Marathon of Afghanistan. Picture courtesy: Free To Run

What really resonated with me was that this charity supports transformation, character development, give connection to community and sense of purpose. It also equips youth to exercise their rights through sports by providing support, training, public awareness, and networking.

While I may be indirectly exposed to those affected by conflicts when lived in New Zealand, Australia and the Middle East, I cannot fully understand the impact on those experiencing it – the psychological wound that interrupts the development process. There are unique challenges that add to complexity to develop those affected by crisis or conflict.

Through my little research on this topic, I learned that women and children are the worst affected. Like scars, the effects of war continue for years, and sometimes an irreparable damage. Through Free Ton Run programme, girls and women can become the agents of change as opposed to the victim of the conflict. It advances the status of women, and certainly empower the women. It’s also key to ensure the youth in post-conflict stay out of negative influences such as drug, violence, and unrest.

Life without freedom to express individuality, to engage in physical and outdoor activities is something I cannot imagine. For me, involving in sport or any physical activity is a human right – freedom to choose and to engage, be who you want to be. Yes classroom education is important, but going beyond textbook for outdoor education has many additional benefits such as it encourages physical, social development as well as intellectual,  aside from building their self-esteem and self-confidence.

By supporting this Free To Run, the progress, accomplishments, and achievements* below can and will be repeated, which then I genuinely hope to be multiplied and amplified:

  • Over 50 female students in Afghanistan trained for and participated in a 10km race outdoors in the Central Highlands region.
  • Zainab, one of Free to Run Ambassadors, became the first Afghan woman to run a full marathon in her country.
  • Two ultra marathon teams from Afghanistan, including the first mixed-gender sports team from the country, successfully completed two 250km self-supported footraces in the Gobi Desert and Sri Lanka.
  • Nelofar, one of Free to Run Ambassadors and an ultra athlete, started a running club of 20 women in the North of Afghanistan and successfully organized a half marathon for international women’s day.
  • Female refugees in Hong Kong who were previously reluctant to leave their homes are now participating in outdoor activities on a regular basis.
  • Free To Run Refugee running team in Hong Kong received an award from the local running community for their achievements.

*Source: Free To Run

Winter training in Afghanistan. Picture courtesy: Free To Run

Yes, I will run, hike and crawl my way of the 130km distance plus 7200m elevation climb in grueling The Nine Dragons Ultra for my personal challenge but there’s bigger purpose that is larger than life –  to make a difference, bring confidence and change to the lives of girls and women in conflict zones. 

Appreciate you reading this. If you are in Hong Kong and fancy to support me chasing the dragons please drop me a line.

The development of this youth is an asset and an intergeneration effort, please support because it’s only going to be worthwhile. To donate, get your credit card handy, choose from various tiers/giving levels and pay via PayPal through this link. Thank you very much.

Live to thrive,

SOTG,x

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