Meet the visually impaired Marathon runner: Amarjeet Singh Chawla
Amarjeet Singh Chawla’s is no mean achievement. Eighty-four half marathons at age 62, add to that the fact that he is visually impaired. He is also a gold medalist at the All India Swimming Competition for the Disabled in the 50m freestyle events. He's the only visually impaired mountaineer to reach the Dolma Pass in Kailash Parikrama in Tibet, around 19,830 ft above sea level. He is also popular as the dancing Sardar at the marathon, but Amarjeet wears his achievements lightly.
The Beginning of his journey as a runner
He started running marathons just 12 years ago. The crowd cheers and clap for him when he runs, boosting his morale and motivating him to run more. He was diagnosed with macular degeneration at the tender age of 13 after which he started losing vision. “I was under treatment for 32 long years. I tried allopathy, homeopathy, naturopathy & Ayurveda. But I was totally blind by the time I was 40,” Amarjeet says. But it did not stop him. He completed his first marathon in 2004 and over the years he’s pushed his limits. He’s run marathons in Delhi, Pune, Surat, Hyderabad, Daman, Mangalore & many more. The first time he ran the marathon in Mumbai, former Indian cricketer Kapil Dev escorted him for a few kilometers. In the next marathon, business tycoon Anil Ambani escorted him. This inspired him to never give up on running.
The obstacles in his running
He says the major crisis is finding the right escorts. “I have left many marathons because escorts backed out at the last moment. In such a scenario, you cannot arrange for another escort and your registration fee goes in vain. Till date, I have changed 20-22 escorts. But, I have decided to continue running and my first goal is to complete 101 half marathons,” Amarjeet says. “The older the escort is, the better, as you make a more cordial team and finish up soon,” he said. His personal best time for half-marathons is 1 hour 42 minutes. “I face a lot of difficulties while running. Many a time my knee or ankle gets injured during the run, especially while taking turns or when I stumble because of potholes, speed breakers or bang into some or the other runner. But in any case, I tell my escorts not to rush. My aim has always been to complete the distance that I have registered for. There is no sense in speeding up at the start and then getting tired and leaving the race in between,” he says from personal experience. He is also known as the dancing Sardar because he gives a great ‘bhangra’ performance with the drum beats at the finish of every marathon.
Coping up with visual impairment through positivity
When it comes to coping up with daily life being visually impaired, he says that his wife has helped him a lot to turn his weaknesses into strengths. His family has always been supportive of whatever he did. Other than sports, he also runs an insurance company in south Mumbai. His energy at the age of 62 is something one can’t find even in today’s youth. He is really particular about yoga and does it every morning, as it gives him peace of mind and soul.
We all have eyes, but Amarjeet has a vision with never-ending determination. We salute this undying spirit and hope to see him shake a leg at the next marathon soon.