Running for a good cause

The UNICEF Borneo Marathon started in 2017 with a run for children with disabilities. The story in pictures.

Diana Chai
Children w disabilities and their parents
20 April 2019

Marathons in Malaysia are attended by thousands both from in and outside the country. From sport enthusiasts to beginners, running is good for health –but can also be good for others.

Why not promoting child rights issues through a fun and entertaining sport event? With this idea in mind, UNICEF approached one of the largest marathon organisers in Malaysia. The Borneo Marathon is held annually in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and is attended on average by 10,000 people.

Children w disabilities and adult partners at starting line

In 2017, UNICEF and the Borneo Marathon organisers chose the theme of #thisability to give children with disabilities a chance to participate in a marathon and change the way runners see and interact with them. Using the sport for development model, UNICEF and Borneo Marathon included #thisability key messages into marathon banners, race packs and PSAs. A separate 3KM fun run was organised where hundreds children with and without disabilities could participate to promote inclusion in sport. All routes converged in the main stadium for an inclusive celebration with all children and runners –all different, all able, all in.

All at the starting line
small boy pointing

Personally I think this is the best event ever. The word "Thisability" is indeed very powerful. Instead of disability which means people with less ability, we embrace their differences by acknowledging their unique capabilities.”

Prisca, marathon participant 2017
Mother hugging child

I hope that people will change their mind and put their heart into ensuring that children with disabilities have a place in the society and are able to contribute towards the future of our country as well.

Elvin, marathon participant 2017

Standing together in 2018

After the success and receptiveness of participants to UNICEF messages on children with disabilities, UNICEF joined forces with the Borneo Marathon once again, this time to curb bullying. It become officially the UNICEF Borneo Marathon. The #StandTogether campaign promotes the use of kindness instead of blame and punishment to counter bullying amongst children and young people.

Post its with kind messages
The kindness wall at the Borneo Marathon 2018 featured post-it messages of kindness from the participants.

The marathon included a 10km run where school-aged children were allowed to participate. Students from SMK Sanzac, the school that won the coveted title of “Malaysia’s Kindest School” following competition activities organised during Kindness Week 2018 attended and participated in the run. After the marathon, almost 90 per cent of the runners felt that their participation in the marathon helped to increase their understanding on the prevention of bullying.

Find out more about the StandTogether campaign.

Runners finishing the race

Information and best practices to counter bullying was relayed to runners during the race pack collection through UNICEF’s fundraising face-to-face street marketers who used their crowd working know-how to spread information instead of raising funds this time!

SMK Sanzac also shared their winning kindness strategies before prize giving and invited the audience to take the Kindness Pledge – promising to spread kindness.

The Borneo Marathon increased my awareness on the rise of bullying. As a mother of two young male toddlers, I do not want them to be bullies or to be bullied.

Marathon participant, 2018.
Marianne and Laurent present the winning prize cheque

For the past two years, the UNICEF Borneo Marathon has provided a platform to reach thousands of people from all walks of life to take action on child rights in Malaysia. Please mark the date of the next UNICEF Borneo Marathon in your calendar – April 28, 2019. Put your shoes, register come and run with UNICEF to promote healthy eating habits among children in Malaysia!