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  • By: Ray Peng
  • Aug 10, 2022

Humans of Lazada: A Guide Runner’s Eye-Opening Journey

Our “Humans of Lazada” series takes a look at the professional and personal lives of more than 9,000 people who work at Lazada. Click here for more stories from this series.

 

“I’ve been a volunteer guide runner for visually impaired people for the past five years. When I first started out, I had so many questions. I wasn’t sure if it was possible for someone who could not see to complete a marathon, and I wondered about the difficulties they faced and how I could support them. It was only through spending more time with them and coming close to their lives that I developed a greater understanding of those with visual impairments.

 

My first trial run was with Zhou Ling, a visually impaired runner in her 50s. The volunteer group I was in assigned me to her. I was nervous at first because I didn’t know her well, and I was worried that I might make her fall. During our first run, a lot of people looked at us with surprised expressions on their faces. I later realized that I had accidentally worn a T-shirt for visually impaired runners, and everyone was amazed that we could run so well, since they thought that both of us couldn’t see! I told this story to Zhou Ling and she couldn’t stop laughing. That was the start of our friendship.

 

In 2019, Zhou Ling signed up for the Nagoya Women’s Full Marathon in Japan. For safety and orientation, all visually impaired runners need sighted guides during the race, so she reached out to our volunteer group again for help. The group helped Zhou Ling find three running guides for the marathon, and I was one of them. The other guides and I would rotate between running beside Zhou Ling to support her navigation, clearing the path ahead of her and providing supplies. When it was my turn to run alongside Zhou Ling, a guide rope would connect the two of us. Most of the time, I would ease up the rope to let her take the lead and run freely. When we were around a corner or if there was an obstacle, I would pull at the rope to silently alert her without disrupting her strides. And when I felt her tighten the guide rope, I knew I needed to slow down to give her some rest. We covered 42.195 kilometers in five and a half hours and reached the finish line, where Zhou Ling’s son presented her with a necklace.

The marathon was held in March, which was when the famous cherry blossoms, or sakura, were beginning to bloom in Japan. It was also Zhou Ling’s first trip to Japan, and she was curious about the country. I tried my best to describe and explain everything I saw to her. I described where the Nagoya TV Tower was located; how the branches of the sakura trees swayed in the wind, sending tiny petals flying in the air; and how we were cheered on by passersby, including some dressed in cosplay costumes. During the long but beautiful journey, I tried to transform my voice into Zhou Ling’s eyes so she could see the colors and sights around her.

 

Becoming a volunteer running guide has been an eye-opening experience for me. I was even fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the torchbearers for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

 

While I help Zhou Ling with running, she has also inspired me greatly. Every time I’m running beside her, I ask myself, ‘how can I give up while she’s still persevering?’ We have developed such a close bond and rapport. She often tells me that life is like a marathon. You don’t need to hurry up. Just slow down, listen to the wind, enjoy the time and head in the right direction.”

Yuan Fangfang, who is in her 30s, is a technology specialist in the supply chain team at Lazada China.

Compiled and prepared by Ray Peng from the Lazada communications team in China.

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