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 SOP 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 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)
Overcoming every obstacle and difficulty my visually impaired athletes made it easily to the finishing venue on the said date and time, conquering 145 km in 3 days, and their ever shining smile which did not fade a single day of the run, was even more broad at the finish line.
I trusted the trainings, I trusted my guide runners and I trusted the strength of these 6 athletes. But all of our potential was really put to the test in these 3 days. The start went as planned… The flag off by Rajmata Pramoda Devi Wadiyar, the weather cooperated so well for us to maintain a good pace in the morning hours. On day 1 we covered a distance of 53 km though we had planned for 59. One of our athletes had a cramp in her leg and we had to wrap up early.
The challenge was tough on the next day to finish the target as well as those 6 km of the previous day.
But my trust on the team really paid off the next day when they showed outstanding strength and finished 57 km. Every 2-3 hrs during the course, we had physiotherapy stretching, which kept us going. I was beginning to develop shin pain on the right leg with some swelling, but it healed with regular icing. And final day it became very easy since all had the curiosity to reach finish line and welcome party! I was so overwhelmed at the love that people have us enroute.
The Pinkathon training girls joining to cheer enroute, felicitations by Paralympic committee and Prerna trust for blind, the media coverage, the Doordarshan coverage, Felicitation by Bengaluru University Vice chancellor, the 3 days was full with events and we felt very pampered by the attention.
The entire group was so chirpy, so cooperative , so helpful for these 3 days that it made tough times so easy going. This was the first ultra run for me and my entire team of Visually impaired and guide runners and I am glad we finished it successfully with the help of structured training and team work!
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.