On May 31, Amarjeet Singh Chawla, 63, will set off on a marathon from Mumbai to Pune, a distance of about 150 km. Chawla, who is visually impaired, will do so to raise awareness about the the issue of ‘avoidable blindness’.
Chawla will be part of the awareness marathon — ‘No More Avoidable Blindness’ — an initiative of the National institute of Ophthalmology (NIO) Vision Marathon. He has already participated in 174 races, 106 half marathons, 64 10-km runs and four ultra marathons.
“Chawla is visually impaired, but because he truly believes in the cause, he has been an integral part of this initiative since its inception in 2016,” said Dr Aditya Kelkar, eye surgeon and a director at the NIO.
Chawla will start the marathon from the Goregaon Sports Club in Mumbai and his first stop for the night will be in Panvel, from where he will cross the Khandala ghat on June 1. After his second night halt at Lonavala, he will run to the Rabindranath Tagore School in Pune on June 2.
Dr Kelkar said timely detection of most blindness-causing symptoms can help prevent the condition.
“Conditions like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, eye-related macular degeneration and amblyopia can cause blindness. While amblyopia can be cured by exercises and spectacles, if caught before the age of six, diabetic retinopathy can be taken care of with controlled blood sugar by regular exercises. Glaucoma is often caused due to hereditary genes, eye injury, diabetes etc, which makes it hard to detect. But regular visit to a doctor can help in its detection. Eye-related macular degeneration happens with age and hypertension, and can also be controlled with running and regular exercises,” he said.
An initiative organised by the Run Buddies Club and sponsored by the NIO, the marathon will be completing its fourth year. Another feature of the event is ‘Blind Folded Run’, where people with eyesight will be blind-folded and will be accompanied by a friend. “This is done so that people know what it feels like to live life without their eyesight,” said Kelkar.
The initiative, which had over 2,000 participants in the first year, has seen tremendous response from the public. “The event had more than 3500 participants last year. It included a lot of athletes as well as members of the public,” said Kelkar.