WITH TWO days left for Sunday’s Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, the Dugals have begun preparing — right from finding ankle high shoes, doing the right exercises, to following a carefully curated diet. After a gap of two years, Angad Dev Singh Dugal (33), who has cerebral palsy, will get back on the track for the dream run.
A dream run ideally stretches over 5.9 km, but Dugal is aiming to cover at least one km. “Though the distance is not much, it takes humongous effort and strong will and support behind every step I take,” Dugal said, using a facilitation board to communicate as he cannot talk. He uses a keyboard like a sheet and runs his fingers on the alphabets to convey each word.
Cerebral palsy is a brain disorder that affects muscle coordination and body movement. Dugal was a month old when doctors diagnosed him with the disorder. “After his birth, he slipped through the hands of the nurse and sustained a brain injury,” his mother, Harpreet, said. “We had two options, we could either take legal action against the hospital or spend our resources on his upbringing. We chose the latter.”
One of Dugal’s legs is turned inwards, his back is bent, and he loses energy soon while walking. For a cerebral palsy patient, walking for even 500-850 m can be very tiring.
In 2004, Dugal, then 17, first saw a marathon on television and decided to participate. He participated in the dream run, taking three-and-a-half hours to cover a kilometre. He was accompanied by his parents and both sisters. One carried a plastic chair, another carried food, and two people held him as he walked. While he inspired many differently-abled people to run in marathons, the organisers introduced wheelchairs for them from the next year.
Dugal has been running every year since then, and has improved his timing to one-and-a-half hour to cover one kilometre.
In 2017, Dugal suffered a pelvic injury, and the next year, two fractures in his leg forced him to be on bed rest of five months. “His regular exercises and routine were affected for a year, and he could no longer run in the marathon,” Harpreet said. In December 2019, Dugal was in Jaipur when he decided to participate again in the marathon, which sees over 40,000 participants. The family returned to Mumbai on December 23 to begin training.
Dugal’s day starts at 5.30 am. His diet is mostly non-vegetarian with dal, and he eats four meals a day. His sixth-floor flat in a leafy Juhu lane is designed as per his needs. He peddles his cycle in the room to improve stamina, then takes a walk in the building complex. Every few hours, his body runs out of oxygen and he needs a machine fixed to his chest to regulate his breathing pattern.
His elder sister, Gursimran (40), calls him Milku, inspired by Farhan Akhtar’s character in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Dugal said that this time, he decided to run the marathon for Gursimran. “The last two years have been traumatic… I want to show my friends that if I can overcome so much pain and still do it, so can they,” he added.
His family remains proud of his efforts. A large cardboard-bound book is filled with newspaper clippings of Dugal running in marathons. The drawing room is adorned with a picture of him and his mother during a dream run. Gursimran has decided not to marry to be able to take care of him. This year, only the younger sister, who lives in Jaipur, will be missing from the marathon.
Despite suffering from vision loss due to retinis pigmentosa, boils on his feet and a thumb injury, Dugal said he his happy to put his sneakers on. “I am nervous too. For the last two years, I have been off the track. Expectations are sky high.”
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