Amarjeet Singh Chawla lost his eyesight by age 40 but runs marathons to bring awareness about avoidable blindness

Amarjeet Singh, the visually impaired marathoner famously known as “Sporty Sikh”, on Sunday completed a 21-km run in Pune to raise awareness about the issue of “avoidable blindness”.

Singh was diagnosed with macular degeneration, one of the leading causes for vision loss, at the age of 13, and lost his eyesight completely by the age of 40. It was only at 48 that he started his sports career. He had earlier won a gold medal in 50m freestyle at an all-India swimming competition for disabled in Mumbai and is the only blind person to scale the 19,830-ft Dolma Pass in Tibet.

Asked how he is preparing for the Kargil Marathon, Singh said: “I have never practiced regularly for any marathon event. I am visually impaired and need a person to help me run. I cannot find a person to help me every single day. So, I practice only on the weekends and try to complete one run, be it 10km or 21km. The Kargil Marathon is on August 25. I will go there three days in advance with Rahul Brahme who has escorted me in 32 half marathons. We have a good tuning. In the three days, we will do 5km runs twice a day to get acclimatised to the weather as there is a risk of elevation in that area.”

Singh has finished 179 runs in all and there will be five more before the Kargil Marathon. “I have done 107 half marathon (21km), 66 10km runs, five ultra marathons and one intercity ultra. I wish to be a part of longer runs. I want to run from Delhi to Amritsar, which is approximately 650 km, to raise awareness against drug abuse,” he said.

Asked about the most difficult run he has completed so far, the Sporty Sikh says: “The Mumbai-Pune 160km run held in June was my first long-distance run and the most difficult so far.

I began my run from Goregaon Sports Club and a few women who had earlier participated in Pinkathon escorted me. Severe summer temperatures made the run difficult. It was 44° Celsius and the most difficult part of the race was the ghat section. This was a three-day run and I am thankful to the people who escorted me and helped me.”

The 63-year-old marathoner says he wanted to do something in life that would help people remember him. “I was approached for a fundraiser for the visually impaired persons and my first marathon was 7km. Cricketing hero Kapil Dev escorted me for 200 metres. This is when I thought that running for a cause will take me places. After that I was escorted by Milind Soman, felicitated by Sachin Tendulkar and have received the mayor’s award in Mumbai. All this appreciation keeps me going. I motivate myself and after completing every event I ask myself: ‘Bol Amarjeet, karega kya?’ (Tell me Amarjeet, will you do it?) and my inner self says yes and I get ready,” he says, adding that he never says no to run: “You can ask me to run at any point in the day; even at 2am. Just a cup up tea and I am ready.”

posted Wednesday August 7th
by Shalaka Shinde