For two hours after the marathon ended, loud music continued from a tent near St Xavier’s College. Inside, scores of differently abled people danced, holding hands while swaying to the Marathi hit number Zingaat. Some were mentally challenged, others were fighting polio or epilepsy. All of them were overjoyed at completing their 1.75-km stretch of the marathon.
“I am tired,” said Mumbai-based Shubham Tiwari (8), who is mentally challenged. “Because of walking?” someone asked. “No, dancing,” Tiwari answered.
Of the 42,379 runners, 433 disabled people — 321 male and 112 female — participated in a symbolic run to raise awareness on several ailments and disabilities. Umar Khan (18) practised for six days for the marathon, for which he came all the way from Bhopal after convincing his parents. He suffers from cerebral palsy since birth and this was his first marathon. He plans to participate in the next as well. “I felt very good,” the teen summed up.
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“He seldom goes out of the house. For them, the marathon is not about coming first, it is about participating,” said Anil Mudgal, from NGO Arushi, which helps the differently abled with speech and occupational therapy.
Prarthna Mudgal (10) has a hearing disability. She underwent a cochlear implant but still faces problems in hearing. She has participated in a marathon in Indore before this to promote the cause of disabled people. “But I did not practise. I just run,” she smiled.
Sargam Kushvah (8), a student of Class III, is visually challenged. She practised for a week to walk by herself in the marathon. “Only when I run, I need support. I ran for little distance today holding someone’s hand,” she said. After the marathon, Kushvah had a performance lined up in a college to raise awareness on disability.
Prakash Nadar (40), who has battled polio since childhood, had participated in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon’s dream run category 13 years ago, when an event for disabled people had not even been introduced. “They did not allow a wheelchair in the dream run, so I had to walk on crutches. It took over four hours to finish 7 km. I was on bed rest for three days due to swollen arms and exhaustion,” he says.
By the next year, the marathon introduced a category for disabled people, to walk 1.75 km. Since then, the participation of the differently abled has increased from across the country. “It is symbolic. The ability to participate in a marathon makes us feel good,” Nadar said.
Siddharth Sharma (22), an autistic youngster, had to be trained to comprehend what a marathon is and how to finish the walk. “His motor function lags. He understands slowly, but occupational therapy helps him,” said Priyanka Srivastava, his teacher. Sharma finished the marathon without a problem, and kept murmuring “acha laga” (felt good) afterwards.
Several persons joined in to raise awareness about diseases. Shibani Gulati (37), a kidney transplant patient, completed the half-marathon (21 km) with her husband to raise awareness on organ donation.
“It is not easy to get someone to donate their organ to you. My brother did it for me. I wanted to run to promote the cause, and also to show people that life does not stop after a kidney transplant,” Gulati, who runs a production house in Bandra, said. This was her fourth marathon for the cause.