n each issue of beyond the I, this column presents a first-hand account of a visually impaired person’s experiences in the ‘real’ world. Here, Guneet Sethi tells us about her participation in the Delhi Half Marathon, right from the time George Abraham invited her to take part in the run to the event itself
Marathon and me? That was my first reaction when George Abraham told me that I was running for Score Foundation. This was exciting, I thought, but somewhere deep down I wondered if I could really do it. I had not run a kilometre for the past 15 years and to participate in the Marathon was difficult for me to comprehend.
But the cause associated with the run motivated me instantly. I started telling my friends and relatives that I am taking part in the Delhi Half Marathon. To my surprise, I got an overwhelming response from all of them. They encouraged me and felt happy to see me find my lost confidence. They willingly supported the cause for which I was running. In fact, one of my friends volunteered to be my escort and even join me in the run.
And then started the practice sessions. A friend who stayed in the neighbourhood accompanied me for a walk every day. Slowly, we increased the distance and the speed; this became our daily routine for three weeks. It helped me build up my stamina. I also started doing yoga regularly. Now, I felt, I was reasonably prepared for the run, but I was still nervous, as I had never ever participated in an event of this kind.
On October 15, the day of the Marathon, I got up earlier than usual. My excitement was at its peak and I was looking forward to meeting the rest of the team at the appointed place. We were 26 in all—people from different walks of life. Everybody was greeting each other and our spirits were high. Together, we walked up to the venue at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. To my surprise there was a sea of people there. There was tremendous enthusiasm in the crowd and the noise levels were very high. Drums were being played loudly and there was a festive atmosphere all around. Everyone was very excited.
My friend told me that there were huge balloons everywhere, along with buntings. It was looking lovely, she said. It was not until then that I realised I was participating in an event of such a magnitude. I got very nervous and held my friend tightly, as I was scared to get lost in such a large crowd. And amid the tremendous beat of drums and all that shouting, Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi, flagged off the Half Marathon at 9.30 am.
There was such a crowd that it was difficult to move ahead. Initially, we just had to follow them, till people started running at their own pace and the crowd got a bit spaced out. The serious runners took the lead. There were eminent sports personalities as well as some actors and models providing a touch of glamour to the Marathon. People were dressed in all types of costumes. We even came across a person dressed as a ‘Tree’, campaigning the cause of the environment. I believe he got the second prize in the category.
By this time I had got back my confidence and now wanted to run and not just walk. I joined a colleague from Score Foundation and ran for a while but soon got tired as I was not used to running. We stopped for water twice. Everyone was in a cheerful and jovial mood. There was no tension at all. People were laughing and talking throughout the distance. There were youngsters who were there just for fun. And there were some senior citizens whose energy levels were hard to imagine; you could not miss the enthusiasm of those who were on the wheelchairs. The atmosphere was really very inspiring; there was a feeling of togetherness and concern for each other.
Our walk was brisk and quick, it wasn’t long before we once again heard the beating of the drums and people were standing on both sides of the road waving to greet us. Wow! We were approaching the finish line.
“I did it! I did it!” These were the words that first came to my mind on completing the Marathon. And I was not the last to finish the run! My friends were overwhelmed and my family members simply overjoyed. I did not know what exactly hit me but I felt on top of the world. More than anything else, it was an emotional achievement for me. I felt that I had accomplished a landmark in my life. Now I feel confident of doing just about anything. And if I, as a visually impaired person, could do it, so can you. It was truly a memorable experience. Join in next year to support the cause of Score Foundation, to inspire the millions of blind people of our country who need to be told that losing your eyesight is not the end of the world.