Blind, but far from left behind
Visually impaired runner has completed 21 races, including one with 20 obstacles
She is visually impaired, but even a 2.4m-high wall could not stand in her way.
Miss Patricia Poo, 27, was born with sclerocornea, a genetic eye condition that leads to clouding of the cornea.It has left her completely blind in her right eye and with partial sight in her left eye.
But this has not stopped the receptionist at Sengkang Family Service Centre from taking part in many road runs.
She even took part in the Spartan Race, an obstacle race, in May.
With the help of a guide, Miss Poo overcame more than 20 obstacles in the 5km race. These included carrying sandbags, flipping tyres and climbing over a 2.4m-tall wall.
Ms Jan Chan, 39, who was taking photos for Ms Poo during the race, said: "The moment she managed to climb over that wall, she burst into tears."
Miss Poo said it felt like she had proved her critics wrong.
She said: "Before the race, some colleagues actually asked me whether I knew what I had signed up for.
"But when I climbed that wall... I showed them I could do it."
Ms Chan, a primary school teacher, said: "She's a fighter. She is resilient and determined to prove herself to those who doubt her abilities."
It was not the first time Ms Chan has seen her friend overcome such challenges.
She was Miss Poo's running guide in the Yellow Ribbon Run 2013, which was Miss Poo's first long-distance race.
Ms Chan said: "It was not an easy race... There were many slopes and it was extremely crowded. For a first-timer, it can be daunting, even more so since she is visually impaired."
Miss Poo got into long-distance running in 2013 when she noticed her colleagues picking up the sport.
Her friend introduced her to Runninghour, a running event where participants run and guide people with disabilities. That was also where she met Ms Chan, who is a committee member of Runninghour.
Since then, Miss Poo has kept on running, completing 21 races over the last three years.
Miss Poo on one of the obstacles in the Spartan Race in May. PHOTO: EPALITE
"Running brings me joy. After a run, all the stress and worry from the day just goes away," she said.
"I was never really afraid of taking the first step or getting hurt. I told myself, whether I'm home or outside running, I'm equally at risk of falling down so I just went and ran," she said.
Ms Liz Koh, 46, a human resources director who is also one of Ms Poo's guides from Runninghour, said: "Patricia has never let her disability stop her, she goes out with us for meals and holds down a job, just like a normal person."
In April, Miss Poo was awarded the Singapore Health (Singhealth) Inspirational Patient Award in honour of her resilient attitude despite her visual impairment.
Miss Poo trains three times a week, clocking an average of 5km to 10km per session.
She always runs with a guide as "it is too dangerous" without.
The guide directs her during turns and warns her of even the tiniest obstacle like a stone on the pavement.
She said: "I can only see 1m to 2m ahead of me and make out rough shapes of objects, like buildings and trees. (The guides) are my eyes. Without them, I won't be able to run."
But what she lacks in sight, Ms Poo makes up for with a sensitive touch and sharp hearing.
She said: "I can feel even the slightest difference in terrain when I run."
Ms Chan said: "Sometimes, she tells me there is someone running from behind even before I notice the person myself."
Miss Poo can even make out the direction of traffic flow just by listening to the sound of cars.
"At cross junctions, I listen to visualise which way the cars are going and when they stop or go," she said.
Her keen ears have helped her cross roads with traffic lights that are not enabled with audible pedestrian signals (APS), which make a ticking sound to indicate it is safe for pedestrians to cross.
She said: "It took eight months for an appeal I made to install APS at traffic lights near my house in Sengkang to be approved.
"I think we are still a society that is unfriendly for the visually impaired community.
"More can definitely be done to help make our lives easier."
"I told myself, whether I'm home or outside running, I'm equally at risk of falling down so I just went and ran."
- Miss Patricia Poo, on taking part in races