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Runversation: Man who had a blind-date with Marathon

THE ASIAN AGE. | SAMUEL SUDHAKAR
Published : Jul 20, 2017, 6:18 am IST
Updated : Jul 20, 2017, 6:18 am IST

Amarjeet Chawla has been visually impaired since the age of 13, but that hasn’t stopped him from scaling mountains and conquering distance.

Amarjeet Chawla holds the hand of an escort as he approaches the finish line on one of his runs.
 Amarjeet Chawla holds the hand of an escort as he approaches the finish line on one of his runs.

There are people who are amazing athletes and who have everything going for them. Then, there are people, who are amazing athletes despite all the odds being stacked against them.

There are obviously many strong people in the world of sport, but athletes who have a physical disability — whether it is paralysis, amputation, or loss of vision — and are yet successful, are the cream of the crop.

While we continue to be inspired by anyone who can run, there are some runners whose extreme athletic feats and perseverance through adversity motivate us to lace up our sneakers and hit the pavement.

If you visit the Facebook page of Amarjeet Chawla, you will see the picture of an aged Sardar wearing dark glasses, taking guard like any sprinter does at the start line. He has been doing so for over a decade. He has stood at the start line of 68 half marathons. It’s not his age that makes him remarkable but the fact that at the age of 13, he was diagnosed with macular degeneration, a non-curable eye disease. By the age of 40, his vision was seriously impaired. What gained strength, though, was his spirit. He is a lesson in how we should never let our mindset (whether you are disabled or not) stop us from achieving great things.

Amarjeet has made history by being the first visually-impaired mountaineer to scale the 19,830 ft high Dolma Pass in Kailash Parikrama in Tibet. He won gold at the All-India Swimming Competition for the Disabled in the 50 mts category and he has run marathons across India.

“I didn’t treat my loss of vision as a punch to the gut. I wanted to set a positive example to the world and move on despite my disability. In 2004, I was invited to run for the cause of people with vision impairment. Without knowing what long distance running was, I took the plunge and since then it has been the most powerful, exciting, moving and enjoyable experience of my life. Participants and spectators have encouraged me wherever I have run. The adulation I receive is indescribable.”

It’s inspiring beyond words to see what people can accomplish by overcoming conditions that would derail most of us. Gaining control over your life involves learning and then successfully applying a number of self-determination skills.

Amarjeet plans to take his tally of marathons to 100 by 2019. On his running, he says, “I’m just stubborn and I refuse to lower my expectations. With each run I enjoy the opportunity to spread a message, to have fun, to meet new people, to endure (and enjoy, as perverse as it may sound) the physical pain of a race and to cross the finish line holding hands with my escort and fellow runners. With each run, I hope to encourage at least two people to take up fitness and a healthy lifestyle. That’s my mission. I encourage people to set their own goals.”

Believe in yourself. Don’t allow fear to hold you back. The time is READY. The time is NOW!

The writer can be reached at gs.sudhakarrao@gmail.com

Tags: visually impaired, amarjeet chawla