Chris Hortin Tan has tunnel vision, but regularly joins marathons, triathlons and cycling events. By Estelle Low
Chris Hortin Tan (in pink shorts) training with her guide, Angelina Lim. Photo: Runninghour and Epalite
As an active girl who loved playing ball games and represented her school in track and field, Chris Hortin Tan’s world came crashing when she was diagnosed with glaucoma at 14.
“I was having difficulty judging steps, and started bumping into things around me. I also experienced frequent headaches,” Chris, now 42, recalls. “One of my family members took me to an eye specialist where I was diagnosed with juvenile glaucoma.”
Despite undergoing multiple eye surgeries, Chris’ eyesight deteriorated, leaving her with “5 per cent of vision left”.
“My daily life was affected dramatically. I needed the help of my friends and family to accomplish day-to-day activities such as taking public transport, until I learnt to cope on my own,” Chris says.
Today, as a homemaker and vice chairman-cum-event manager of running club Runninghour, Chris is able to do most things on her own, such as cooking, eating and doing housework. She even manages to exercise daily and take part in marathons, triathlons as well as cycling races – a feat which most of us with healthy eyes have yet to accomplish.
Q: What’s your fitness routine like now?
A: I run at least four times a week. I also do circuit training, play blind tennis and swim once a week.
I have tunnel vision, which means that I can only see what’s ahead but not my surroundings. If someone suddenly runs in front of me, I may not be able to react in time, which may result in a collision.
Because of this, I train with a guide who’s connected to me through a tether (long shoe lace). My guide, whom I got to know from Runninghour, helps steer me in the right direction and gives verbal cues to alert me of obstacles and changes in terrain.
Q: What sporting events have you participated in?
A: I have ran many races, especially 10km and 21km ones. I completed my first full marathon in 2014, with a timing of 5:30. I also completed my first Olympic distance triathlon in 2015 with a 3:15 timing. I’ve joined a few cycling events, including a 100km fund-raising event in Batam.
I’m looking forward to Runninghour 2016 this July. It’s the only running event in Singapore where participants get to run alongside visually, intellectually and physically challenged runners. Participants will get to experience running while being visually impaired as they are blindfolded, with the help of their partners to guide them along.
Q: Do you work out with the same guide always?
A: I have a few regular guides from Runninghour, so that when one is not available, I can depend on others without affecting my routine, especially when I’m training for a long-distance run. We need to build trust and bond with each other to ensure that the run is comfortable. In Runninghour, our guides are usually paired according to the fitness level of runners with special needs.
Q: What keeps you running?
A: Presently, I only have 5 per cent of my vision left. I want to keep fit, stay in shape, and feel good despite my disability. My support comes from my friends and family, especially my sons who are 16 and 14 years old. They always say to me: “Mum, you are not blind. You can do a lot of things that other ordinary people cannot even achieve.”
Also, I want to demonstrate to my boys and others that having a disability doesn’t mean you cannot achieve your goals in life.
About Runninghour 2016
With the goal of integrating people with special needs into the community through sports, Runninghour Co-Operative Limited launched Runninghour in 2015, the first and only mass running event in Singapore where participants run alongside visually, intellectually and physically challenged runners. In Runninghour’s 5km and 10km Blind Run, runners have to run in pairs, with one blindfolded and the other assisting as a guide, as they are connected by a band. The Runninghour 2016 event will also feature its first-ever mass dance fitness session. Register by at www.runninghour2016.com by June 19.
When July 10, 7am to 11am
Where East Coast Park, Angsana Green
How much $40 (5km); $45 (10km)