Totally blind Sikh completes 101st half marathon, and he wants more

Sixty-three year old Amarjeet Singh Chawla is doing what some would think is impossible. Sporty Sikh, as he's known, has been averaging about 20 marathons a year in the last couple of years

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Amarjeet Singh Chawla aka Sporty Singh featured in 2019 Tata Mumbai Marathon promo video – Photo: Video gra

On Sunday, Amarjeet Singh Chawla successfully completed his 101st half marathon at the Tata Mumbai Marathon. And the 63-year old runner, popularly known as Sporty Sikh, is not about to stop soon.

“My next target is to hit 151 half-marathons, and run abroad, if I can find the sponsorship,” he told the Success and Ability, India’s cross dis-ability magazine which featured him on the cover of its latest issue. “101 is a shubh number.”

Amarjeet is no stranger to the sporting world. And he has an interesting story to tell.

To make ends meet, Chawla runs a lottery shop and has now ventured into insurance service business.

Here is an abbridged version of the article ran by Success and Ability:

It all began rather unassumingly. Amarjeet Singh Chawla was at a family function, in Asansol, when he received a text message from the National Association for the Blind (NAB), an invitation to be part of the seven-kilometre run at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) 2004, of which NAB was to be a beneficiary. Due to macular degeneration, Chawla’s sight began deteriorating from the age of 13, leading to complete loss of sight by the time he was 40. For Chawla, who was 48 years old then, life was meandering on. His bread and butter came from the small lottery shop that he ran at Malad in Mumbai, while his wife ran a small insurance service business.

“My wife and I visited NAB to enquire about the event and then and there I decided to go for it, just to prove to the world that blind people aren’t incapable”, shares Chawla.

This was the starting point. An adrenaline rush then set in. Following the SCMM 2004 run, Chawla decided that he had to do something bigger. He enrolled himself for the half-marathon, i.e., a 21.0975 km run, at the SCMM 2004. He practiced vigorously for this and roped in an escort to run with him. On 16, January 2005, at the age of 49, he ran his first half marathon, completing it in about two hours. Chawla reminisces, “Completing my first half-marathon with such good timing meant a big deal to me. I decided to run more marathons”.

There’s been no looking back since then. His life started getting punctuated by half marathons, the punctuations falling closer and closer together with time. When he completed his 25th half- marathon, at Pune, he thought of setting a target for himself. He became fixated on completing 101 half marathons. “101 is a shubh number”, he says. Curiously, his 101st half marathon, slated for 20 January 2019, will be at the 2019 Tata Mumbai Marathon (formerly the SCMM), where it all began. His 100th half-marathon was Mumbai’s Powai Run on 6 January 2019.

In the last couple of years, he has been averaging about 20 marathons a year!

Besides, Chawla has also completed several treks in the Himalayas and Sahyadri ranges that have taken him to the Sar Pass, Saurkundi Pass, Kedarnath Trek, Valley of Flowers, Jaisalmer Dessert Trek and Dalhousie to name a few. He has also completed the famous 300 km Mumbai-Shirdi rally walk. In 2009, he became the first blind person to scale the Dolma Pass (Mount Kailash) at 19,830 feet in Tibet. “I could’ve tried for the Everest base camp trek, but I didn’t have sufficient funds, nor a proper escort”, he rues. Then there are his exploits in swimming – Chawla won the 50 m freestyle gold at the ‘All India Swimming Competition for the Disabled’ in Mumbai in 2004.

Lack of availability of escorts prevents Chawla from preparing/training for marathons by running long distances. Runners with visual impairment run marathons with escorts, the escort and marathoner holding the edges of a 10-inch rope and running in tandem, with the escort guiding the marathoner as to when to turn, when to change direction, step up/down, etc. “The only training that I do is on-the-spot jogging, holding the railing of the staircase at my house and Pranayam. On the marathon days, I don’t take up any specific preparation. I just wake up, get ready, have bread-and-butter with tea, and pray to God to give me the courage and the power to complete the marathon”.

To read the full story, go here.

Amarjeet Singh Chawla aka SportySikh on the Success and Ability magazine cover for its January 2019 issue – Photo: Magazine website
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