I’d known of Mei-Hwa’s reputation for a long time.
She’d posted her photo, running, in a traditional Chinese dress, she also wore the sailor’s outfit, and, camouflage to run too! But, aside from her distracting outfits, I saw, how passionate she actually was………
I showed up, with everybody else, at MRT Gongguan Station, that night, there was, a light drizzle, and Mei-Hwa was having the volunteers, to direct the visually impaired into the N.T.U.’s campus. They ran, alongside a rope, that, was the most, beautiful scene in Taiwan.
The Power of a Single Rope
I’d known about the reputable Mei-Hwa for a very long time already. Her photo on Facebook, was her, in a traditional Chinese dress, running, and, other than the traditional Chinese dress, she’d also worn a sailor’s outfit, as well as military camouflage too! But, I saw her heart full of passion, from underneath all those, distracting colors that she wore, the original “railroad relay” didn’t have a visually impair group, and, Mei-Hwa fought hard for one, and, the group ended up, chasing down the train with glee.
We’d walked for about five minutes, and arrived at the meeting place in the school. Mei-Hwa went around, and greeted those visually impaired friends of hers who’d not come to these events for a long time, “it’s okay if you twisted your ankle, you could still come and hang out!”, she’d turned around, to commend a beginner runner, “You must come to these meets often now, to stay healthy!”, then, she’d led everybody to do the warm-up routines, “Extend both arms upward, cross those fingers”, and, up to here, she’d paused awhile, and, went into the group, and helped them posture correctly, then, after they’d done their warm-ups, they were, paired up.
She’d worked for the physics department in N.T.U. for years on end, earned a master in public sanitations from N.T.U. she took the time after she’d earned her master’s, to start running marathons. One day, she’d found, that there were, those who were, visually impaired who’d competed, “They were, so amazing! And, they’re all, very fast too!”, she looked at that rope, on the one side, tied to the “visually impaired”, on the other, the “accompanying runner”, which allowed them to move swiftly together on the streets, she’d felt impacted by this, and ever since, she’d gotten involved.
As she’d started out as an accompanying runner, the visually impaired runner, Ching-Hsiang Hong, was also, a beginner runner. And because the massage place she worked in can only give her a day off, she couldn’t go to the group practices, she’d asked Mei-Hwa if she could have a private one-on-one running session with her too? Mei-Hwa used her most widely used phrase, “Anytime!”
Back then, the visually impaired runners of N.T.U. got started, and the group practices ran up to 9:30, but, Ching-Hsiang’s personal sessions weren’t over yet, she’d needed to, ask for an hour’s absent at the massage parlor she’d worked in, and she’d needed to, ask to get off work an hour early, the time they’d met up was, right around ten in the evening.
“I’d still recalled that Ching-Hsiang told me, that I can ride the MRT over”, but Mei-Hwa found, that running from N.T.U.s school campus was only twenty-minutes, “I’d treated that as the warm-up, faster than the MRT!”
it’s how you finished the race that matters the most…photo from online.
At the very start, Ching-Hsiang couldn’t manage, ran for no more than five hundred meters, and, she’d pressed down on her knees, and, bent over, started panting hard, “it’s okay, start slow!”, she’d slowed down, stopped, then, picked it back up, stopped, then, picked back up.
Slowly, they’d elongated the distance, the goal they’d set for the middle period of them running together was from Zhongzhen Bridge to Hua-Zhong Bridge, about five kilometers. The world quieted, and, they can only hear, their footsteps. And, although Ching-Hsiang had gotten so sweaty, red in the face; but every time she’d heard the cars from the bridge, meant that she was, almost there, she’d always, picked up her pace, and, the sound of the cars passing became, an alternative kind of cheers for her.
It’s after midnight, the run was over, Mei-Hwa ran back to the dormitory at N.T.U. alone. It was, deep in the nights, there was, almost, no pedestrian and no traffic, as she ran over the Zhongzhen Bridge, there was a driver that rolled down the windows, and told her, “Lady, you got more to look forward to, more to live for!”
The Leader for the Visually-Impaired Marathoners
For the sake of entering into competition, they’d increased their workout time during the day, and, ran along the riverside. There were, those twisting and turning roads that were, a bit, harder to handle; no matter the weather, scorching heat, freezing rain, they could only, keep on running together; Ching-Hsiang’s legs went limp a couple of times, but Mei-Hwa encouraged her again, and again, “Keep going, believe in yourself, you can totally do it!”, the air was, humid and sticky, they ran on, and their bodies became, too caught by the weather conditions, but, smiles were, overcoming both their faces.
For that competition, their team was first all the way, sweat started, rolling in front of both their eyes endlessly, and the moment they ran past the finishing lines, they were, underneath the spotlight. Mei-Hwa who was accompanying, was wearing a traditional Chinese dress, caught everybody’s attention, and, turned everybody’s impressions upside down, “Don’t be so serious, it’s just, a look!”, she’d told of how well the dress fitted her body, how the material was very breathable in, that there was, a split in the front, making running easier.
Ching-Hsiang didn’t pale by comparison either, although there were, the professional runners from Hong Kong and Singapore, but, she’d only lost to the runner from Hong Kong, earned second place. From not being able to run, to “the top-notch visually impaired runner”, because of Mei-Hwa, it’d caused this, incredible outcome, this awing “accompanying runner” made miracles happen.
That day, I’d visited Ching-Hsiang, she’d hung up on her running shoes because of injuries, but as she’d talked with me about those days of running, she became, animated. In her guiding me, we’d returned, back to that place where we first practiced our running in.
Walking along the riverside in the evenings, the field of vision opened wide, the bridge and the reflections, looked very interesting. And, although the number of people out reduced compared to the daytime, but, there were those on bicycles, jogging, or those taking strolls there.
Chiang-Hsiang told me, that there was a photo that’s moving, wanted me to try to find it on Facebook. It was, after a practice run, when she’d, leaned onto Mei-Hwa, dragged her tired feet home. And the volunteers caught them, and, instantly, took that shot; in the backdrops of the night, the two of them, turned into silhouettes. I’d, given the photo, a kudos!
Mei-Hwa was like a lamplight in the darkness, pulling on a string of light in the dark, and, helped me see, a whole new still-life picture through the lighting.
And now, after she’d gotten away from the president of the running club of N.T.U., she’d still accompanied people on their runs a lot. She deeply understood, that although they’d become, visually impaired, but, so long as they still have use of their legs, they can, run free on this road called life, and this undefeated-by-circumstances spirit was, inspirational, “So long as they want to run, I’ll be there, anytime!”
So, this woman became an accompanying runner, because she wanted to help people who are visually impaired live their dreams, and, because of how much heart this woman has, she’s able to, make so many difference in the lives of others, a truly amazing tale…