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Heroes on Wheels

Geared for challengeat the Wipro Chennai Marathon. Photo: M. Karunakaran

Geared for challengeat the Wipro Chennai Marathon. Photo: M. Karunakaran  

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The Wipro Chennai Marathon for the first time saw as many as 60 persons with disability participate across categories

They swerved between the runners, gravel crunching beneath their wheel, high with adrenalin, slicked with sweat. Like the other runners at the Chennai Wipro Marathon 2014, they had been up since 4 pm, traversing the 42.2 km distance from Kasturaba Nagar MRTS station where the full marathon began to the CPT ground where it ended.

The Spinal Foundation’s, Running for Ability initiative, saw 60 Physically challenged runners did 904 kilometres, participate across categories without assistance.

“This is the first time we have had so many specially-abled runners at a single event,” says Vaidya Nathan of the Spinal Foundation. “And they all ran the regular distances---the full, half and ten k. They are all strong and capable, why shouldn’t they run as much as the others,” he says.

Venkataboopathi, one of the participants, agrees, “We are also part of a larger population and wanted to participate in this public event. I ran on my tricycle—it was a wonderful experience.”

The team, comprised of 30 participants with Spinal Chord Injury, 9 hearing challenged, 5 persons with polio and 16 amputees. Five of them did a full marathon, 10 a half marathon and the rest a 10 km run.

D. Annalakshmi, who is the first person in India to do 10kms on wheelchair without assistance, has an injured spine but her spirit is as strong as it gets. She underwent physiotherapy to strengthen her hands a month before the marathon, “My strength lies in my hands,” she says adding that though the ride was tough and she almost felt like giving up, she persevered to prove that, “I too could do it; that I too could compete in such an event,” she smiles.

Ganesh, the hero of the day who whizzed past the rest, completing the full marathon in 2 hours and 47 minutes says, “It was plain sailing, I completed the distance with no problem at all. I have been participating in this event for 2 years and hope to do many more. I feel great,” he says.

What also helped, says M. Venkatachalam from Vellore, who completed the marathon at three hours, 56 minutes and 58 seconds was, “My fellow runners were very encouraging,” he says. “They would say ‘come on, you can go it’ as they ran past.”

He admitted that while were moments of pain, pessimism, and extreme discomfort, he gritted his teeth and persevered. And it was worth it. “I felt proud of myself when I reached the finished line. People I didn’t even know came running to shake hands with me,” he says.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 6:28:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/heroes-on-wheels/article6676606.ece

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