Parasports July 21, 2021
Huafrid Billimoria is officially the first Indian with dystonia to run a full marathon!
Indian triathlete Huafrid Billimoria has become the first person with dystonia to run a 42-kilometer marathon. Dystonia is a highly complex neurological disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions. It causes a wide range of symptoms, which can range from mild symptoms that come and go to severe, debilitating symptoms that can greatly affect a person’s quality of life. The triathlete with dystonia has now set two world records.
When Huafrid Billimoria pushes himself physically while doing endurance sports, his whole body shuts down with involuntary movements. It has not stopped the 25-year-old Indian triathlete from competing on the track, in the pool, or learning mixed martial arts.
Huafrid has dystonia, a chronic and complex neurological disorder in which a person’s muscles contract uncontrollably. He was diagnosed with cervical dystonia when he was 16 years old. As a child, he struggled with learning disabilities, ADHD, and severe anxiety.
Dystonia causes varying degrees of disability
“When I push myself in endurance sports, my whole body shuts down with involuntary movements. Every step I took, I fell, stumbled, and ended up with chronic muscle spasms”, says Huafrid. As a result of dystonia, you have no control over your body functions. Even walking straight is difficult.”
He started running marathons, swimming and learning mixed martial arts like capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art, to cope with his condition and his anxiousness. In 2019, he became the first Indian with dystonia to swim 2.5-kilometers.
A year later, Huafrid broke two more records. He became the first Indian with dystonia to swim from sunk rock to the Gateway of India in Mumbai and then swam ten kilometers in the sea. Huafrid began training a year ago for his latest record. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed his plans.
COVID-19 stopped everything but my drive. I ran a half marathon inside my house just to keep my mental toughness going. It took almost twice as long as I take on the road. The main challenge was training inside my home, which affected my mental state the most. – Huafrid Billimoria, Triathlete with dystonia
Triathlete with dystonia sets many records
After falling sick with a stomach bug a day before the marathon, Huafrid was determined to keep running. “I accomplished something within a year that I had planned and my perseverance was rewarded”.
During this period, Husafrid says he was motivated by his coach Brinston Miranda, the international athlete and founder of BEFIT Fitness Academy in Mumbai. “He just said ‘you do it,’ and that was more than enough for me. It wouldn’t have been possible without him and the rest of the team”.
“In keeping with Huafrid’s condition, we customized a workout program for him”, says Miranda. “With his disorder, he was able to run 42 kilometers, which in itself is a big deal since it is tough for him to recover quickly physically. Our training program was tailored accordingly to build his muscles”.
Zoran Patheria, who ran with Huafrid, says completing a full marathon with dystonia is an impressive feat.
“People with dystonia may appear to be normal, but their muscles can start moving involuntarily at any moment, making it extremely difficult to do normal tasks, let alone compete in marathons and triathlons”. Huafrid, despite several setbacks, has continued to train. “I have seen him go in and out of the hospital, be put on bed rest, and wear neck braces when his condition is severe. As soon as he is better, he is back at it. Watching him achieve his dream was a pure delight. It will be my greatest joy to cross the finish line with him whenever we are able to do an Ironman together.”
Huafrid believes his record will keep him motivated mentally and physically and he is dedicated to raising awareness for people with dystonia.
“I do this for myself and the inclusion of others like me in Indian society so that no one has to go through what I did”, he says. “I don’t want fame, I don’t want popularity, all I want is a change in Indian society”.
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