Marathon brings out the best in these bravehearts

Aarati Krishnan Chennai | Updated on December 03, 2014

Preparing for the Chennai Marathon on Sunday

59 differently-abled runners are preparing for the upcoming Chennai run

As Chennai prepares for the third edition of the Wipro Chennai Marathon on December 7, a special group of runners is hoping to set a record. Fifty-nine differently-abled people, under the banner ‘Running for Ability’, are planning to participate in the marathon in order to raise awareness about spinal injury. They expect to complete the full marathon (42.2 km), half marathon (21.1 km) or the 10 km run, without any assistance.

“It is common for the specially-abled to participate in a category where the distances are cut short. But we decided not to do this and to let them take part in the regular category. Having 59 such runners in a single event is a first in India,” says one of the organisers. Between them, the 59 marathoners plan to clock a total 862 km in the event. The group is made up of 28 runners with spinal cord injury, 16 amputees, 6 who are impaired by polio and 9 who are hearing challenged.

Unshakeable will

“I’m very keen to participate. I completed 10 km in 2012 and the half-marathon in 2013. Now I’m looking forward to doing the entire 42.2 km”, says S Satish. He’s already aced the 21 km run last year, so why is he taking on the punishing full marathon? “Because I can do it”, he says, brimming with confidence.

Satish lost his mobility after suffering a spinal cord injury in a two-wheeler accident four years ago. He uses a tricycle to commute. So has he checked out the routefor stretches of bad roads after the recent rains? “The road to my workplace is quite badly damaged and I manage it everyday. I’m not worried,” he says. By way of preparation, Satish has been covering the 10 km stretch to his workplace (he is employed as a security guard) and back, without any assistance.

Keep striving

D Annalakshmi, who suffered an injury to her spinal cord after a botched surgery in 2001, is a first-time participant in the event. She’s hoping to complete 10 km- the first time a differently abled girl would do so. “Completing it will be an achievement to cherish,” she says.

But what are the specific challenges for runners like her? “You get breathless manoeuvring the wheelchair over long distances. So it is critical to maintain your body weight in the run up to the event. Your arm muscles need to be really strong and you need to exercise them regularly,” she explains, saying that the doctors at CMC Vellore have helped her train for the event.

Running for Ability is supported by The Spinal Foundation, an all-India self help group that works to improve the quality of life for people who have suffered spinal injury.

The group has been participating in the Chennai marathons since 2012 to create awareness about the quality of life after such injuries. While the first Wipro Marathon in 2012 saw 2 specially abled runners participating, the second one had 8 people.

This year, the numbers have taken a quantum leap to 59 participants.

Support systems

Also participating in the marathon, along with these runners, is an 85-strong contingent of doctors, therapists and students from Christian Medical College (CMC) Vellore, who work to restore the lives of people affected by injury and stroke.

Conservative estimates place the number of spinal cord injured in India at about two lakh persons with 10,000 new cases added every year.

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Published on December 03, 2014
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