Lack of sight is no barrier for this Mumbai shop owner who is running his 82nd marathon today!
In his jaunty cap and with a firm stride, Amarjeet Chawla, a 62-year-old Mumbai shop owner, has been a familiar presence at all the leading marathons in India since 2004. Today is no different as Chawla, who is vision impaired, is raring to make his mark at the 2018 Mumbai Marathon.
Chawla lost his vision at the age of 40 and his first run happened on an impulse. "I started losing my vision when I was 13 years old and by the age of 40, I was totally blind", says Chawla. "I was very confused about what to do with myself and I just decided to run for the first time in the 2004 Standard Chartered Marathon."
That was just the beginning for the Sporty Sikh as he is popularly called. From a dream run of seven kilometres, he started taking part in marathons across the country.
"My target is 101 marathons. This 2018 Mumbai Marathon will be my 82nd and that will charge me up even more" - Amarjeet Chawla, Blind Marathoner
The Mumbai Marathon is extra special as it brings plenty of media attention, which is a great boost for this senior citizen, who seems unfazed by barriers that most of us would be put off by.
Chawla ran 20 half marathons and an ultra marathon of 57 kilometres in 12 hours in Mumbai. In 2018, he plans to complete 19 marathons. By completing 101 marathons, he wants to draw attention to the immense potential that people have, especially the disabled.
As Chawla's reputation grows, he is finding greater support. "Initially I had to spend a lot of my money on registration fees and for an escort to accompany me. Slowly a lot of volunteers came forward to run with me. Now I get invites to run from places like Goa and Ahmednagar and they bear the expenses," says Chawla.
This year, Chawla has a sponsor for the first time. A start up from Baroda called Sipwise is sponsoring Chawla's run. "I hope more companies follow their example and come forward to sponsor me as my dream is to run marathons in countries outside India".
Chawla has many other distinctions to his credit. He is the only blind person to scale the 19,830ft. high Dolma Pass in Kailash Parikrama in Tibet and is also the only blind person to have successfully rappelled in Raigad Fort in Maharashtra.