As of 23 April 2022, Thaarumaaru Runners (TMR), a community of Indian runners in Singapore, have raised $52,040 in donations for the Singapore Indian Education Trust (SIET), an organisation focused on helping Indian students support their tertiary education, through bursaries and interest free study loans.
According to Yasmin Begum, co-head of TMR’s social media subcommittee, the group’s fundraising strategy was to create awareness for a “marathon event”. Ten runners will cover the 26.2-mile (42 km) distance of a typical marathon by completing one mile (1.6 km) at the start of every hour, for 26 hours. The event is to take place over the upcoming Labour Day long weekend, starting at 10 pm on 29 April and ending at midnight on 30 April 2022.
Donations started coming in as soon as TMR shared about their initiative on their Facebook and Instagram pages. “Members started fundraising on their own pages and networks, and we even had local Indian influencers and celebrities who shared it on their IG accounts, increasing the reach,” said Yasmin.
Strong community support
She added: “We attribute our success to the strong support we received from the Indian community. Many came forward when they heard that the beneficiaries were Indian students. We received donations from friends as far away as India and Dubai too.”
The money raised is more than 10 percent of SIET’s fundraising target of $500,000 for 2022, according to Gopal Varutharaju, chairman of SIET. He said: “This is a super achievement, considering that they initially targeted only $30,000, which they reached within a week. It’s a very commendable first-time initiative by them.”
Gopal added: “SIET’s usual fundraising approach is through our annual charity golf event and canvassing to private individuals and institutions. However, this effort by TMR is not only different but can be considered to be quite a punishing feat – running a mile an hour continuously for 26 hours without any sleep.
However, this is not the first time that TMR has raised funds for charity by organising a running event. In 2018, TMR raised around $30,000 for Lighting Hearts Lighting Homes, in a similar fashion – runners took turns to run around Bedok Reservoir over a 12-hour period.
There is an important takeaway from the group’s name – one of inclusiveness.”
Yasmin said: “We were only 100-odd members strong then but managed to raise a sizeable sum still. At the end of the day, we remain true to our primary objective and goal, which is to promote health and fitness amongst the Indian community here in Singapore – which is core to our fundraising efforts as well.”
Earlier this year, TMR also raised $4,000 for a student to finance his degree course at the University of Tasmania, Australia.
In an age of political correctness, and a proclivity to nitpick, the first thing that strikes you about this group is their name – “thaarumaaru”, which in this context would mean “run anyhow”. “‘Thaarumaaru’ has another meaning,” Yasmin claims, “which is used to describe an intense feeling of awesomeness. We do not take ourselves too seriously in the TMR family and the name ‘thaarumaaru’ describes how we approach the topic of fitness. It can be haphazard, imperfect but we celebrate all efforts towards achieving fitness. Every effort is celebrated and we rally each other towards consistency.”
While the alternative definition for the word would probably not fly, not if any Tamil language professor would have it, there is a more important takeaway from the group’s name – one of inclusiveness. Among the various communities that make up the Indian diaspora in Singapore, each often has its own practices, cultural norms, rituals, and rules. We can at times be sticklers for propriety – to a point of fault. TMR through the choice of their name, is perhaps reminding us to take some ‘time out’ from such overbearing adherence to the rules or to what differentiates us within the community. TMR is also conveying that you don’t have to be an elite runner to be part of this group. Running should be part of our culture.
Punching above their weight class
TMR organises runs every Saturday and Sunday. They also organise ad hoc challenges which members can complete at their own venues and timings. We also get together to form teams to run in events/competitions such as the ‘Round Singapore Challenge” and “Run as One Singapore”. In the latter, TMR provided 18 teams of 4 runners each, which according to Yasmin was the highest number of submissions from any running group in Singapore. Not bad, given that the Indian community is the smallest of the ethnic groups in Singapore.
We believe that we are stronger by working together. By uplifting each other we can progress towards a more successful and resilient Indian community.”
Since establishing themselves in 2017, they have grown to 1,100 runners and are continuing to grow. Yasmin explained the appeal of the group: “Many join the group thinking it will be a normal fitness group but are won over by the way our members encourage and motivate one another. The one thing that unites us is our effort towards fitness.”
TMR does have certified fitness coaches and instructors who are “ever ready to share and offer tips and advice when approached,” Yasmin says.
Yasmin also emphasizes another creed that TMR is embracing – one of working together for the greater good: “We are open to collaborating with any organisation that supports our Indian community as we believe that we are stronger by working together. By uplifting each other we can progress towards a more successful and resilient Indian community.”