The danger of running with durian for charity

From ‘Running with a prickly companion for charity’, 28 May 2017, article by Tay Hong Yi, ST

A quirky charity run is raising a stink on social media. In the Run for Good Durian on July 13, each runner will get a durian to run with for 5km. After that, he can eat it.

The cause is nothing to sniff at, as proceeds will be donated to the Ang Mo Kio-Hougang Community Development Welfare Fund.

…Said Twitter user Gwen Guo: “(This is) possibly (the) most Singaporean charity run I’ve seen.” But there was room for some thorny questions too. In the comments section of the community centre’s post, Facebook user Ho Shigure asked: “Has anyone conducted a risk assessment?”

The run’s official website encouraged runners to “be creative” with transporting their durian safely.

“At 8am sharp, the race will be flagged off by the special guest and participants will carry, lug or hug their durians for a 5km distance until the finish,” said the organisers.

However, no recommendations on safely handling the King of Fruits were offered, beyond suggesting that “a backpack, plastic bag, gloves or other creative ways” could be used to minimise the risk of injury to oneself and others.

Participants will receive a T-shirt, while those who complete the run will receive a medal, a coconut and, of course, a chance to win a mao shan wang durian in a lucky draw.

People have done things worthy of the Darwin awards in the name of charity, of course. You could walk on flaming charcoal barefoot over 100m, volunteer to be shot with 21,000 paintballs, or be like Jack Neo and lie on a bed of glass. The difference is you don’t risk hurting anyone else other than yourself.

Safety is always the number one priority for any kind of race, whether it’s imposing restrictions on light sabres for the Star Wars Run, ensuring that zombies don’t actually bite people during ‘Race the Dead’, or that nobody sneaks anthrax powder into the Color Run.  The record shows, however, that more people have died running an actual Marathon than all these gimmicky events combined.

The number of ways a Durian Run could go wrong is easy to imagine. Though unlikely to kill anyone since this is a horizontal run and not a race up a building, one probable scenario is that people may drop the King of Fruits along the way. A runner behind could be injured not so much by stepping on the fallen durian or falling face-first onto it and getting iris incarceration, but from a rear-end collision with the durian dropper. A heated argument could result in the prize being used as a mace to hit someone in the face, like what happened to a bus driver in 1985. Yes you could go home not just with a durian but a few minor skin punctures along the way but at least that beats a fatal cardiac arrest near a 42 km finish line. 

Common sense would tell participants that under no circumstances should you, no matter how creative you are:

  1. Tape a durian to chest while running
  2. Walk in stilts while juggling durian
  3. Or go dressed like this

Still, all these hazards are at best hypothetical. The only scientific risk assessment one could ever conduct for a race of this nature is to determine if the combined odour of durian and sweat is potent enough to knock passers-by out cold.

A pity that the race doesn’t end at the Esplanade, though.

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