Disabled runners turn up in record numbers at Airtel Delhi Half Marathon

The chill in the air and high pollution levels did not put down the spirits of the disabled and the elderly, who made their attitude and presence felt at the Airtel Half Marathon held in New Delhi on Sunday.

Airtel marathon opened to disabled for the first time

The marathon, which was open to people with disabilities for the first time, was held in partnership with Planet Abled, an organisation that is making travel accessible for the disabled. There were nearly 500 disabled participants, and over 1,400 elderly, who took part.

Marathon held in partnership with PlanetAbled

Leading groups in the field of disability rights were there in large numbers like AADI (Action for Ability Development and Inclusion), Action for Autism, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, Ottobock India, Jan Madhyam, to name a few.

For the first time, the Airtel Half Marathon had a dedicated separate running track for champions with disabilities for 2.2 kilometres. People with all types of disabilities traveled from far and wide to participate like the blind, deaf, mobility impaired, people on the autism spectrum, cerebral palsy and other chronic neurological disorders.

Many disabled runners had prosthetic limbs or crutches, and some were on wheelchairs, with their relatives and friends for company. For many, the occasion was an opportunity to spread awareness about their causes, while others made the point that disability was nothing more than just an attitude.

Watch the NewzHook video on the Airtel Half Marathon

Sagar Baheti, who is blind and Gagan Arora, a deaf runner, finished the half marathon of 21.2 kilometers. Preeti Singh, the first runner up at the Miss Wheelchair 2017 competition was the moderator at the event.

The medals at the end of the event were distributed by Mariyappan Thangavelu and Varun Bhati, India's paralympians. Speaking to Newz Hook at the event, Bhati said, "The level of enthusiasm is on another level this time.” Sentiments echoed by Thangavelu, who was full of praise for the runners.

Among the first to complete the marathon was Amit who had been practicing for the marathon for almost a week. "I used to run five kilometres every day at 5 AM. There was nothing stopping me." Gagan said finishing the entire stretch of 21.2 kilometres was a big high. "I practiced running eight kilometres every morning, and after today, I am motivated to run the 42 km marathon."

Oshin Dhawan has filed this report for Newz Hook from New Delhi.

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