Rightly said, the only thing that is constant is change. But I’d like to add to it. Drastic changes in life only happen if you keep working towards your goals tirelessly.
Hi, I am Bhumika Patel, 44; Global Program Manager – Cybersecurity at IBM.
I started running in 2009, but it was since 2013 that my running career flourished. I represented India at World Master Athletics Championships in Brazil. I participated in first Pinkathon with 3000 women from my company winning the Award for Best Corporate participation-IBM, Maximum Participation from a corporate – IBM and won my first Pinkathon 5k (individual) and corporate 5k team winner. With the same awards in 2014, this time with 2000 women from IBM; I also won the first prize in 21 k and the Hero of Pinkathon award. This continued in 2015, when I completed my First International at London Marathon and made yet another 21k podium at Pinkathon. This was when I began volunteering for Pinkathon Training with Milind Soman’s encouragement and soon as Headcoach for the Blind People’s Association Ahmedabad, Devnar School For Blind-Hyderabad, Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled and Mitra Jyoti Institute for Blind, and several homes for visually impaired across India.
Today I lead corporate/women running teams in various locations across India.
In 2015 I completed my First International at London Marathon. In between the hard training days, I would try to adjust my give back to these women and kids, which I found very challenging at start but gradually I settled down into a routine. I found it very satisfying to encourage and support cancer survivors and visually impaired to run. And happiness reaches its zenith when they scale kilometres or cross the marathon finish lines.
While training non-runner women is not an easy task, training visually impaired girls from an underprivileged background can be more challenging. In 2016, I started training the visually impaired and alongside started conducted separate Guide runners’ trainings which later shifted to Cult centers across the city as workshops to sensitize about challenges faced by the visually impaired with techniques to guide them, as a part of Pinkathon training. We had to ensure a strong back up of volunteers from among the Pinkathon training girls and corporate/running community for coordination, pick up, drop, running gear collection, distribution-storage, correspondence like emails, leave applications from offices or colleges of the visually impaired, crew support during training/races etc. Amidst all this, I completed several global marathons- London, Berlin, Copenhagen,Tokyo,Chicago,Frankfurt within 4hrs.
Thus the visually impaired training resulted in stupendous team work by empowered women. My work with Pinkathon Training was recognised internationally and I was voted as GameChangers2017 ’21 Women who are transforming the world through Running’ by Women’s Running Magazine USA in 2017.
The team have evolved and become more organised and self driven over the years. There is a lot I have learnt in my journey of training the visually impaired. In spite of varying degrees of vision loss, these young girls and boys have not a thing to sulk about. The girls saw a significant improvement in fitness and timings improved over the previous runs at Pinkathon. Running workshops were conducted on running, strength training and recovery with guiding techniques and sensitization, at Cult centers across the city for men and women both, as there was growing demand to become guides. This was a major activity carried out simultaneously with visually impaired training. There was active participation from corporates and the project Received the India South Asia Outstanding Volunteer Work 2018 Award by IBM along with Grants.
These achievements were noted by media and Blind institutes contacted me after listening to news in All India Radio broadcast news for Blind and many more visually impaired were encouraged to join.
In July 2018, 15 visually impaired runners were selected from among 25 to train for the half and the full marathon on Oct 21th at Bengaluru. We started taking the necessary steps in a jiffy like conducting their blood tests, their physical assessments, planning out their workout regimen and diet charts as per their report analyses. Me and Milind already knew their grit and after witnessing their enthusiasm and achievements and in early 2018 decided that the runners who complete the full marathon will be trained for the Spirit of Pinkathon run from Mysuru to Bengaluru which is roughly 145 km. What happened in the 6 months of training, is something I will treasure for a lifetime. The guide team and the doctors kept on their toes to make sure the runners complete the runs as per plan, free of any pain or injury. There were moments of fun, laughter, pain, difficulties. The tough times always started from bringing the visually impaired to a central venue in the morning wee hours, three to four times a week. It was astonishing to see how the girls and boys actively attended trainings and later then their office/college with the same amount of enthusiasm. On Pinkathon Day/October 21, 2018, History was created as India Book of Records awarded a certificate to 23 year old visually impaired girl Suneetha N D, who became the first visually impaired girl in India to finish a full marathon (42.2km)
There were a lot many write ups, news articles, videos and interviews posted on various platforms about this event which happened from 23rd to 25th January 2019. I was stupefied by the tremendous love and appreciation by the country. Karnataka Olympic Association for the reward and the department of youth services rewarded the athletes at the finish line! And thank you Pinkathon and Milind Soman for a grand commendation. Their generous gesture will be a prime motivation not only for them but also for numerous athletes pursuing their dreams in sports. I am invited by the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired to run as Official Guide at the upcoming Boston Marathon 2019 and its a significant milestone in bringing International exposure and expertise to help the athletes with a brighter future!
Credit: Shradha Dalvi
You can follow my journey