The Stories Behind: Thaarumaaru Runners, a fitness group that goes the extra mile for the community

18/8/2022 8:00:00 AM

THE STORIES BEHIND: @JustinOngTODAY joined the Thaarumaaru Runners for a morning run at East Coast Park, and had a chat with members of the group.

The Stories Behind, Running

THE STORIES BEHIND: JustinOngTODAY joined the Thaarumaaru Runners for a morning run at East Coast Park, and had a chat with members of the group.

SINGAPORE — I consider myself to be quite a regular runner, but whenever I do, I usually run alone. To me, running is a therapeutic and personal activity, and doing it alone helps me to take my mind off the day's troubles.

When I arrived at East Coast Park at 6.45am, I found a group of about 40 runners, all clad in blue, waiting for me."We knew you were coming, so we asked more people to come down," said the group's co-founder Ramesh Selvaraj, 43.The group gathers to run mainly on weekends, and occasionally on weekdays. Saturday runs are shorter 6km runs while on Sundays, the group runs longer, up to over 20km.

He had first come to Singapore in 2011, and joined the group in 2018 after hearing about them on the radio."They treat me like family," he told me.Though he and his family had been in Singapore since 2014 and sees it as a"welcoming and inclusive" country, he felt a deeper sense of belonging when exercising with the Thaarumaaru Runners.

Read more:
TODAY »

JustinOngTODAY 👏👏👏

Tired of lagging behind, Sabahans want dedicated leaders this GE15KOTA KINABALU, Aug 18 — Recently, yet another clip of life in rural Sabah went viral on social media — a group of primar...

DBS Altitude Visa Signature Card review: Is this popular air miles card worth the hype?Yet another DBS credit card? You’ll want to pay attention to this one though. The DBS Altitude Card is one of the most popular air miles credit cards for fresh grads and young working adults. You earn air miles at a standard rate of $1=1.2 miles (local) and $1=2 miles (overseas), plus $1=3 miles...

Stories you might’ve missed, Aug 17 - The Independent Singapore NewsHere are the top stories published today...

Morning Digest, Aug 18 - The Independent Singapore NewsHere are stories you might’ve missed...

Morning Digest, Aug 16 - The Independent Singapore NewsHere are stories you might’ve missed...

Stories you might’ve missed, Aug 16 - The Independent Singapore NewsHere are the top stories published today...

regular runner , but whenever I do, I usually run alone.Read full article 18 August 2022, 1:00 am · 6-min read Malay Mail KOTA KINABALU, Aug 18 — Recently, yet another clip of life in rural Sabah went viral on social media — a group of primary school students were recorded clambering across a pipe bridge suspended over a fast-flowing river to get to school.20,900 miles $140 When you do the math, taking into account the additional fees you’ll be paying for the extra miles, you’ll be earning 50 miles per $1.Telegram - Advertisement - LOVE SURVEY: 92% Singaporeans say the top attractive quality in someone they seek a relationship with is their ability to manage money well   Photo: freepik/rawpixel (for illustration purposes only) A new survey shows that more than nine out of 10 Singaporeans feel that how well a person handles money determines how attractive they are as a long-term partner.

To me, running is a therapeutic and personal activity, and doing it alone helps me to take my mind off the day's troubles. However, on a cool Sunday morning in July, I decided to join the Thaarumaaru Runners — a running group for the Indian community — on a long morning run after scrolling through some of their posts on Instagram and Facebook. Now fed up with constantly being labelled the poorest state in the country, Sabahans want their leaders to stop politicking and take its development seriously when the next general election (GE15) rolls around. While I knew of the usual running groups, this one, which primarily features runners from the Indian community, had exploded into the scene. DBS Altitude Card Miles Conversion Beginner miles collectors should note that each conversion to KrisFlyer miles or Asia miles will incur an administrative fee of $26. One of their more viral posts showed Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam joining the group on one of their runs. I do not think we are asking for much, but it always seems like there is some excuse why we are left to fend for ourselves,” said businessman Alan Sebastian. When I arrived at East Coast Park at 6. Badge lady seen at ION Orchard doing what she does best — not wearing mask… again   Photo: YouTube screengrab – Phoon Chiu Yoke Phoon Chiu Yoke, or ‘Badge Lady’ as she has been adoringly nicknamed by fans and followers alike, was spotted at ION Orchard once again doing what she does best – not wearing a mask indoors.

45am, I found a group of about 40 runners, all clad in blue, waiting for me. No fickle politicking “The last few years have been a mess. Of course, the KrisFlyer Auto Conversion Programme comes at a cost."We knew you were coming, so we asked more people to come down," said the group's co-founder Ramesh Selvaraj, 43. Nuria Ling/TODAY TODAY Senior Journalist Justin Ong joining the Thaarumaaru Runners for a run on July 31, 2022. Like most people interviewed, his expression changed to that of bitterness and resignation when he talked about how a state as big and blessed with natural resources as Sabah could not capitalise on its good fortune and was still far behind its west Malaysian counterparts. "Oh nice," I thought. The KrisFlyer Auto Conversion Programme may sound great in theory because you won’t have to do the admin work. But if the photos of their group runs on their Facebook page were anything to go by, I had a feeling Mr Ramesh was being modest about their numbers. “I think we need strong, stable leaders, unafraid to speak for what’s right for Sabah. This came true for one couple, who recently sold a shophouse they bought last year for $8 million, which means they’ve flipped it at an 86 per cent profit on their purchase.

The group gathers to run mainly on weekends, and occasionally on weekdays. Saturday runs are shorter 6km runs while on Sundays, the group runs longer, up to over 20km. I don’t think they understand what it is like to have barely enough to get by,” he said. 4. The run that I had joined them on was"only" 16km, and even then this would already be my longest run all year. We started the run at about 6. Though voter demands vary from place to place, Sabahans are united in their wish for better development and strong and stable leadership.50am, heading towards Marina Bay., which makes it perfect for students and young working adults.

Midway through the run, I was in conversation with 31-year-old Ramesh Kumar, a migrant construction worker who is more affectionately known by the group as Micro Ramesh, to differentiate himself from others in the group who share the same name. Though voter demands vary from place to place, Sabahans are united in their wish for better development and strong and stable leadership. He had first come to Singapore in 2011, and joined the group in 2018 after hearing about them on the radio. Nuria Ling/TODAY 31-year-old Ramesh Kumar, a migrant construction worker who is more affectionately known by the Thaarumaaru Runners as Micro Ramesh. “I just think once it is decided who is the government, they should be given a chance to do their job. Put together, the DBS Altitude Card is a pretty solid entry level air miles card for young working adults who don’t have massive expenses. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY He said that he had difficulties forming friendships with locals due to the language barrier and limited opportunities to interact. This all changed when he joined the running group. How much time and money was wasted on politicking when it could have gone to make our lives better?” said Alan.

"They treat me like family," he told me. That’s only $0. I also managed to catch up with 60-year-old P Tanika, who was formerly an army regular. Basic infrastructure, such as road connectivity and internet access, schools, medical care, even water and electricity, is not fulfilled so any talk of state entitlement in the Malaysian Agreement 1963 (MA63), the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal and the Sulu sultanate’s claim on Sabah is far from their minds. Members had told me that Mr Tanika was the fittest among their group. "As you get older, you need to slow down, that way you can run longer," he said when I asked him what his secret was. “Many people have their own farms, so we have vegetables, eggs. DBS Altitude Card Travel Privileges The DBS Altitude Card is obviously one that incentivises travel. Then, there was also an expatriate, 45-year-old Narasimhan Sampath, who works in the financial services sector.

He joined the group in 2019 after hearing about it from his friends.. Though he and his family had been in Singapore since 2014 and sees it as a"welcoming and inclusive" country, he felt a deeper sense of belonging when exercising with the Thaarumaaru Runners. "With this particular group, there was an instant connection given the passion for running and fitness overall," he told me. We have benefitted from handouts before, but what are they going to do to help us now?” asked James Dungkil, a tourism player from Kiulu. Nuria Ling/TODAY 45-year-old Narasimhan Sampath, an expat who works in the financial services sector, is a member of the Thaarumaaru Runners. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY The sun slowly rose as we ran past Marina Bay Sands, and then back again to East Coast Park. “We have had some development in this area — they built a road through Rondogung to Ranau a few years ago, which has been a big help — but there is still a lot more to be done,” he said.

The 10-strong group of runners were still running at a comfortable pace, chatting with each other. They discussed their plans for upcoming overseas races, and there were inside jokes thrown around. A hill view from Jalan Kiulu Logkou Lama in Tamparuli, Sabah, September 19, 2020. But Mr Ramesh, the co-founder of the group, said that the vibrancy I saw was unimaginable just a few years ago. 02:09 Min TODAY Senior Journalist Justin Ong joined the Thaarumaaru Runners on a morning run at East Coast Park to find out more about what they are doing for the community. — Picture by Firdaus Latif A hill view from Jalan Kiulu Logkou Lama in Tamparuli, Sabah, September 19, 2020. Read more here.

Video: Nuria Ling/TODAY HUMBLE BEGINNINGS When the group was founded in 2017, it was a small-scale affair involving only"seven to eight" runners. — Picture by Firdaus Latif Career opportunities Juliana Long, a housewife who also lives in Kiulu, said that a leader ought to be someone whose vision also provides for the youth. "The idea was that we didn't see many in the (Indian) community actually out and about jogging and running in the weekends," he said."So (the group) started with a close group of friends and family that we wanted to motivate. Any dreams of being a lawyer, doctor, engineer or entrepreneur will mean having to move to the city." He added that while he knew of many people who were strong runners when they were in school and during National Service, there was a sense that"they didn't follow through as we progressed on in life". The group first gained some social media presence on Facebook, where members posted about their runs there to encourage each other to exercise. In villages, the trading hub or pekan are often small commercial lots where a sundry shop, some eateries, maybe the village tailor or an internet cafe are located.

The founding members then decided to name the group"Thaarumaaru Runners". Nuria Ling/TODAY Mr Ramesh Selvaraj, 43, co-founder of Thaarumaaru Runners. “It would be good to see more options available for the youth, so they are not always forced to move away from home. Mr Ramesh, who is a lawyer by profession, explained that"Thaarumaaru" is a Tamil word with two meanings. "One meaning, the literal translation is 'anyhow', so it means anyhow runners, we just get together and we run, anyhow," he said. At the end of the day, what wins voters over is a personal connection to their local leader."But that word also has a second meaning which means 'brilliant', 'great', 'fantastic'.

" "We have people joining us who are very good runners, and then we get people who are just starting out their fitness journeys. “I think this is probably one of the biggest factors when it comes to rural areas... “A visit to their son’s birthday party, a kenduri kahwin or wake is necessary to be able to win hearts,” said James. this name is apt as it applies to one and all." The in 2018, Mr Ramesh, along with another founding Member, Mr Eswara Velan, decided to kickstart weekend group runs in order to become a"credible running group".

However, these runs failed to gain any traction at first. "If we are lucky, we get two runners showing up," he said."There were times when it was just myself or Eswara, just one of us showing up, but we were quite dogged that way and our point was that the show must go on even if its just one person, so we kept at it." Their efforts were not in vain. Word of the group began to spread, with more runners gradually showing up for the weekend runs.

"Now, with the (Covid-19) measures eased, easy to say we get about 20 to 30 runners each Saturday for our runs," said Mr Ramesh. Indeed, Mr Eswara, 28, said that while the group was already growing pre-pandemic, it was during the Covid-19 period when their membership numbers spiked. "During the pandemic, I think there was a huge demand for interest groups and exercise groups," said Mr Eswara, who is in the legal industry. "People were sitting at home and a lot of them realised that exercising was something they could pick up." The group thus organised runs in small groups abiding to the group size numbers, and even did virtual runs and workouts to engage more members.

The group had about 300 to 400 members pre-Covid, but presently they have about 1,200 members. Nuria Ling/TODAY Thaarumaaru Runners saw their membership numbers spiked during the Covid-19 period. GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY As the number of members grew, the founders decided that they could do more to help the Indian community and beyond. "The fact that we managed to grow numbers in such a big way over a short period of time..

. we sat around and decided that maybe we can do a bit more," said Mr Ramesh. For instance, in May, the group organised a running event to raise funds for the Singapore Indian Education Trust, which provides assistance to Singaporean Indian students from low income families. A team of 10 runners from the group ran a mile an hour over the course of 26 hours, in a bid to raise S$30,000. They tried their luck by reaching out to Mr Shanmugam, who, to the group's surprise, agreed to run with them for one mile.

In the end, the group managed to exceed their target by threefold, raising about S$90,000 in total. "I don't think anybody even thought that we would hit S$90,000, but (the fundraiser) really showed what a simple hobby like running and a simple group like this can actually do," said Mr Eswara. In June, the group also collaborated with Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda), a self-help group for the Indian community, to mentor youths and introduce them to the sport. Thaarumaaru Runners members partnered about 40 students aged between 13 and 18 from less privileged backgrounds, to do a short run and chat with each other. "As much as this was something that was very enriching for the students, the volunteers among us that took part also came out of it feeling very fulfilled," said Mr Ramesh.

He added that about five to six students have continued to regularly join the running group for the weekend runs as well. Mr Ramesh added that sometimes after their weekend runs, the group would collaborate with grassroots organisations to distribute grocery packages to less-fortunate households. ALL ARE WELCOME As the run drew to a close, the group of runners thinned as we began to run our own pace. I found myself chatting with Micro Ramesh, the migrant worker, for most of the second half of the route. He told me about how joining the group ignited his love for running, and told me that when he is at work as a lorry driver fetching other construction workers, he would sometimes go for short runs at different parts of the island in between his shifts.

"Singapore's park connectors are very good for running," he said. Towards the last few kilometers, we were cheering each other on as the sun rose higher in the sky and temperatures climbed. When we finally finished the run, we fist bumped each other before I bent over in exhaustion. The other runners soon streamed in, giving each other high fives, chatting and taking selfies. Nuria Ling/TODAY Runners interacting with each other at the end of the run on July 31, 2022.

Mr Ramesh, the co-founder, soon finished his run, looking much fresher than I did. He told me that he had been overweight before the group was started, and had used running to shed the extra pounds. Addressing the elephant in the room, he later shared with me that anyone — including a Chinese man like myself — can join the group for their runs if they wish. "Because we have grown so much..

. we have friends join us on our Sunday runs who are non-Indians, so we are not closed that way," he said. Indeed, while I thought it would have been awkward to join the group as an"outsider", it struck me that I never once felt that way during the run itself. My conversations with runners from all walks of life that morning were enriching and inspirational. It showed me one thing — that running helps to bring people together in a way few other activities can.

Related topics .