KFC helps visually impaired runners realize marathon dreams
Among the 38,000 runners who participated in the Shanghai International Marathon today, a small group of people caught the attention of contestants and onlookers. They were far from being the fastest or best runners, but they felt the same level of pride. They were a group of participants with visual impairment, running to show the world that it can be done.
The “core” of the group were 55-year-old Liu Weidong and 28-year-old Zhu Peihua. Liu, a frequent marathon participant, came all the way from Beijing to Shanghai to join the event. As for Zhu, it was his first time running a marathon after taking up training in 2015.
For visually impaired people, running a marathon takes much more than just putting on a pair of running shoes. Each of them needed three professional running companions, and a 30-centimeter rope, to help them stay on a correct and safe route.
This time, Liu and Zhu participated in the marathon with companionship and help from four people of KFC and Yum China. As a sponsor of the Shanghai Marathon for the second year running, KFC has organized a 100-person team consisting of KFC employees and WOW members.
It was a long story for Liu and Zhu to be the runners of this year’s Shanghai International Marathon. In as early as the stage of application, staff from KFC found that Liu and Zhu failed to register, even though they had a strong desire to take part in the event. KFC then applied for special quotas and four employees volunteered to serve as helpers.
Zhang Xizhe from KFC, one of the running companions who has rich experience in marathon running, said he was deeply touched by the courage and will of Liu and Zhu.
“Every runner of a marathon has their performance target,” Zhang said. “But I don’t care about performance at all this time — what I am concerned about is the safety of Liu and Zhu.”
Zhang and his colleagues spent a lot of time practicing with the duo before the event, in a bid to cultivate mutual understanding and nurture trust. Apart from the four running companions, people from KFC and Yum China also held up banners along the route and shouted "Go! Go!” to encourage Liu and Zhu along the way.
Zhu has a congenital eye disease and lost his sight completely when he was in junior middle school. The Shanghai Marathon was his first full marathon since he took up running in 2015.
Liu is partially blind and aimed to complete the marathon within four hours.
Each of the 'runners in the dark' is guided and supported by three KFC employees throughout the length of the marathon. One runs in front to lead the team, one runs on one side, guiding the visually impaired runner with a piece of string, while the third runs on the other side to prevent colliding with other runners.
KFC employees not only attended the marathon but also volunteered in the training of the 'runners in the dark,' who were offered KFC food after training.
Zhu talked about his experience with running and KFC prior to the Shanghai International Marathon.
Q: When did you start running?
A: I started real training for running in 2015. At first I ran just to keep fit, and then my friends urged me to attend competitions. So I started from 5km, 10km, up to a half marathon. I feel a great sense of accomplishment after each race, and so I've kept at it until now.
Q: As a visually impaired runner, have you ever felt afraid or scared?
A: At first I was worried whether my companions were professional or not. What if they brought me into bad conditions and hurt me? But after working together for a while nothing bad happened — I was totally relieved and I am now convinced that every companion can ensure my safety.
Q: Can you share with us a story about the KFC running team?
A: KFC has been in contact with our association for the visually impaired for a long time. This year many friends from out of town told us that they wanted to participate in the Shanghai International Marathon, but the application was already closed. KFC won over several entries for us and helped realize our marathon dreams. We are really grateful to them.
Q: You and your friends enjoyed KFC food after the training last time, how was it?
A: The KFC running buddies accompanied us for training and to get to know each other. We were happy that KFC staff brought us lunch. That day we just finished training and felt fatigued. The KFC food arrived just in time to replenish our energy and prepare us better for the Shanghai International Marathon.
Q: What changes have you noticed in the food from KFC? Do you often order KFC food delivery, and how?
A: I was in first or second grade in primary school when I first ate KFC. I could still see things then and I felt the food and package were the same all the time. Recently I found that more and more KFC food has been localized and adapted to suit the habits of Chinese consumers. Nuggets and sundaes are my favorite! I use food delivery mobile phone applications to order KFC from nearby outlets. The "voiceover" function on the phone can read out what's on the screen for me so I don’t feel it's any trouble making an order.