Making a start is often the most difficult part of a journey. During the pandemic, two youths, Hebe and Caesar held on to their passion for running by joining InspiringHK Sports Foundation’s professional running and training programme, making “home runs” for their future.
Supported by Link REIT’s Link Together Initiatives, InspiringHK Sports Foundation launched the SportsLINK Community Project in October last year. Besides community sports classes, the Foundation also organised Home Run, a professional 20-session long-distance running training programme, for underprivileged youths aged 12 to 18, in the five districts of Sham Shui Po, Sha Tin, Tuen Mun, Kwun Tong and Tseung Kwan O.
Hebe is a member of the running group Kwun Tong Cheetahs. With persistence, she has cultivated the habit of getting up at 4am every day to run for an hour before going to school. She recalls a time when she felt discouraged and down, and how running brought a spark back into her life. Thanks to her discipline and hard work, she is now a fast long-distance runner and even made it as second runner-up in the girls’ group of the programme.
Hebe said that the running coaches at school tend to care a lot more about measurable results and just kept pushing her to run faster each time. “They kept time in every training session and it just seemed like that was all they cared about, while the love for running was overlooked. Not that the benchmarks are not important, but I just wished that they didn’t over-emphasise that.” Home Run, on the other hand, takes a different approach. Instead of drilling runners on individual goals, the programme brings together a group of like-minded trainees and coaches who run together for the love of the sport. The training is fun and enjoyable, while they also learn proper running techniques from different coaches to improve performance.
Apart from setting up community running teams to provide professional training and gear for 93 trainees, the programme also provides participants with opportunities to compete, visit and engage in career planning. As one of the programme highlights, “Community Exchange Runs” were held in April and May, during which trainees designed their own community running routes and took on the role of guides to lead trainees from other communities. Along the journey, they also introduced special check points, so that others can learn more about their community.
Hebe, is one of the running leaders for the Kwun Tong community runs. Kwun Tong Cheetahs designed a 4.8-km running route which passes through Fung Tak Shopping Centre, the Chi Lin Nunnery and the Choi Hung Estate. As one of the guides, Hebe was worried that she would lead others in the wrong direction. “I was worried that other teammates may not be able to follow us. The whole time I had to remind myself to keep calm and to take care of the rest of the team.” While long-distance running is a solo sport, after joining team training Hebe began to appreciate teamwork and listen to others. “I am rather stubborn. Before whenever an idea comes to my mind, I’d just do it. But now, I don’t just stick to my own ideas but try to consider the opinions of the coaches and my teammates,” said Hebe.
Every eight hours of participation from Home Run accumulated by the participants will be converted into a “goodie bag”, i.e. anti-epidemic kits. Trainees can distribute these kits to the disadvantaged with Link’s volunteers. As of now, the trainees have accumulated nearly 5,000 hours of training, equivalent to more than 600 kits.
With the aim of representing her school in inter-school sports competitions, Hebe is now dedicated to long-distance running training, looking forward to representing her school. She believes that with just a few seconds of progress each day, joining the school team is not out of reach.
“If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I could have kept training and done even better,” said Caesar, another trainee of the Kwun Tong Cheetahs, who is also on the school team. With many sports competitions and in-school training canceled because of the pandemic, he joined Home Run to keep himself challenged and disciplined. “I was once a little chubby boy, so my parents suggested that I run to lose weight. It was then when my P.E. teacher discovered my talents and asked me to join the school team.” Even though Caesar only began formal training in Secondary 4, he has quickly established himself in the school team, winning in various competitions. “I started as a member of B Grade until I got promoted to compete in the A Grade for the inter-school cross-country race. I tried my best to meet my teacher’s expectations.” In the end, Caesar finished 38th out of more than 100 runners. It was a respectable result that got him even more motivated. “Even though I got off to a late start, I knew that if I put in more time and effort than others, I would eventually beat them.”
Because of the pandemic, the progromme was temporarily suspended in January 2022 before resuming with online training in March. Trainees worked on strengthening exercises at home under the guidance of coaches. Although Caesar is sitting for the DSE this year, he never missed a single training session and even recorded all his home-training sessions. While training to be a runner is tough, Caesar believes that with perseverance, it may bring forth a different kind of life experience. The pandemic has disrupted our lives in many different ways, but Home Run has given runners like Caesar a ray of hope by driving them to make continuous progress. “During training, even though we each go at our own pace, we always try to support each other and improve together.” Like other runners, Caesar has recently returned to the running tracks. He finished a 1,500-metre test run with an excellent time of 5 minutes and 12 seconds. With his passion, a chance to represent Hong Kong or joining a running club may be just around the corner.