Running a full marathon – 42.195 kilometres – is already difficult enough. Now, imagine doing that while blindfolded – not being able to see what is ahead, unable to be inspired by the surrounding views and not even knowing where the finishing line is.
That is what 38-year-old Andre Cherbonnier intends to do at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon on 9 December, in a bid to raise funds for charity. While the financial-technology sales representative will be assisted by a team of guided runners, attached to him by a rope throughout the marathon, he will have to run unsighted at a moderate pace for at least four to five hours.
“You just have to accept that you’re going to be miserable for the entire race. That’s actually a very strong mantra in life,” he told Yahoo News Singapore with a laugh.
“But anything worth doing, it’s a culmination of many small decisions to push through. So I’m just going to take every step as it comes, and not think about the full extent of the race.”
Not the first time running blindfolded marathon
This is not the first time Cherbonnier is attempting to run a marathon blindfolded. Back in 2008, when he was working for StanChart, he was spurred to do the same thing by the bank’s “Seeing is Believing” global community investment programme to tackle avoidable blindness. He managed to raise about $5,000 through his feat.
It was hardly an enjoyable experience then, as he recalled knocking over an elderly participant, and then tripping on a rock with only three kilometres left. Yet, he recovered from the falls and completed the race.
“I told myself that on the 10th anniversary of this blindfolded run, I would do it again,” he said. “I told my wife about this and she’s like, ‘You’re crazy, how you’re going to do it when you’re older?’
“And she’s right. I think I’ve done a decent job in keeping a good base level of fitness, but marathons are just on a different level. It’s tough to find the time and discipline for proper training besides looking after my day job, my side business and my family.”
Raising $35k for special-needs school
Proceeds from the run will go to a school for children with special needs in Kupang, the capital of the Nusa Tenggara Timur province in Indonesia.
He intends to raise about $35,000 for the Happy Hearts Indonesia charity organisation to build safe and accessible rooms as well as proper learning facilities for the school, and to facilitate suitable trainings for teachers for the next five years. To do so, he has set up a webpage as well as the hashtag “#runforchange” for potential donations.
“We’re comfortable with Happy Hearts because we know, dollar for dollar, where everything is going. There is transparency for where the money goes,” he said. “At the end of the day, there is nothing better that you can do than to provide proper education for kids.”
Special guide runner right at the end
For now, Cherbonnier is putting himself through the grind of marathon training with his team of 10 guide runners. A former fencer during his secondary school days at St Joseph’s Institution, he plans to cover around 50km per week in his build-up.
All his guide runners have close ties with him, making it easier for him to trust them as they take turns to act as his eyes during the marathon. They include long-time friends, his brother Aaron, and one extra special guide for the final 195 metres of the 42.195km run – his five-year-old son Ari James.
“He’s taking part in the Kids Dash at the StanChart Marathon, and he’s been training up for this 195m as well,” he quipped. “He’ll be ready as I am.”