The Unlabelled Run returned last month with its message to look beyond labels at the person within.
At first light, thousands of participants took to OCBC Square for the return of the Unlabelled Run.
After a short hiatus due to the pandemic, New Charis Mission resumed their signature race on 24 June this year. This time, the runners took an iconic route along the Singapore River, starting at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. The event consisted of a 10km competitive run, a 5km fun run, and an entire event floor that offered free drinks, cotton candy and and live performances.
THE MESSAGE BEHIND THE RUN
The Unlabelled Run seeks to be more than a race. “People are rallying behind the important message of not labelling others,” said Samuel Ong, 37, a tutor at the New Charis Mission. “It has become a movement, a big message to the whole country.”
Sporting the tagline “Drop the label, see the people”, Unlabelled Run 2023 sought to change the practice of seeing people with preconceived prejudice, so that the person beneath all those labels is able to show forth who he really is.
The race started as an event to support ex-offenders who are labelled by society because of their past. A staff member from the New Charis Mission, Ezekiel Seah went up on stage at the event to share his story. When he was a youth, labels such as “rebellious” and “hopeless” inhibited Ezekiel from moving forward. Constantly feeling like he was not accepted and didn’t belong, he turned to a life of drugs and vice. Eventually, he was incarcerated and was ostracised by his family and friends.
When he came out, he joined the New Charis Missions and learned to step out of his labels. Today, Ezekiel is happily married and is actively contributing to society by helping others who have experienced the same things he did. He also encouraged those in the audience, “Whenever we are being labelled, we need to understand our identity and our self-worth. What people say doesn’t determine who we are.”
The message this year extends beyond ex-offenders to everyone struggling with the weight of such labels in their lives. Guest-of-honour at the event, Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung shared a hopeful message in support of this movement.
He said, “The past is past, and everyone deserves a second chance. Beyond that, beyond ex-offenders, we are now looking at everybody. All of us here with some kind of label written on our sleeves, [if] we tear that off and we all make an effort to connect with a fellow human, the world is a much better place.”
A RUN FOR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS
The run was as an avenue for family bonding and for creating a wonderful community. Droves of people gathered at the starting line waiting to be flagged off. Many of them joined the race with their friends and family, not just in support of the cause, but also to spend a Saturday morning together.
“Besides it being a meaningful event, it was also a good time for our family to exercise together,” said Joshua Lee, 23, a student who was there with his entire family. His sister Jewelyn added, “When we were running, we saw many people greeting each other. It was really heartwarming to see everyone coming for this run, bonding and welcoming others.”
The day’s event concluded with the now-iconic ceremony of every Unlabelled Run: runners tear off their tattoo sleeves, removing the labels, symbolically looking beyond them to the person beneath. The New Charis Mission has helped over 3,000 ex-offenders and continues to be a beacon to the community and champion of second chances.