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CHENNAI: It is a dream come true for two athletes whose only passion in life is to run. V Divya was born with vision in one eye. Based in Chengalpet, her mother works as a help, and she has two siblings. After completing her schooling in Little Flower Convent she is now pursuing her BA degree in Literature at Queen Mary’s College. The 20-year-old athlete is a 100-metre sprinter, who represented her school at the inter-school sports meet in Punjab in 2016. Divya was part of a camp for visually challenged where they were given a mobility training, basic computer skills, spoken English and body language skills. One such day she met Anita Srinath, who works as a volunteer for the visually impaired college students and adults.
“Divya comes from an underprivileged family. I thought that Colors Pinkathon would be a helpful platform to showcase her talent. The girl was dejected since she had to give up her running dreams and come to the city to study. But now she has a motivation in life to channelise all her energy and passion into running. They will be taken for a medical check-up and sports counselling sessions by the end of July,” says Anita. Along with Divya, 21-year-old M Maheshwari is another athlete who has partially impaired vision in both her eyes. She won gold at the national level Judo championship held in Turkey. Raised in Thiruvallur district, she has a BA degree in History. Her father is a vendor, and she has a younger sister. “Divya and Maheshwari have not undergone any formal training. So the two months will be an enriching experience for them with different kinds of fitness activities. We’re giving them two eggs and dal every morning as part of their protein supplement. The girls are also getting accustomed to wearing sports gear,” says Anita.
Against all odds
Since June 3, the two girls have been undergoing vigorous training sessions at the Marina Beach from 6 am-7.30 am. What started out as a tedious task now seems to be a cakewalk for both of them who run 8 km a day. By mid-July they will start running 21 km. “Running is a part of my life and I embrace the feeling that comes along with it. As a sprinter, running fast within a given span is what I’ve been doing all this while. Suddenly when they asked me to jog, it was challenging. Our trainer is constantly by our side. Her voice is guidance for us. The first few days were exhausting. After training and stretching exercises, I am trying to keep up with the pace,” says Divya who is also trained in long jump, short put and disc.
Maheshwari is also undergoing the same training. “As a part of my judo practice I had to go for multiple rounds around the stadium. That helps me with running now. The stretching exercises help relax the muscles and keep our mind and body strong. And even during competitions, the whistles and applause from people help me stay on track. I get disheartened easily when I cannot run but seeing Divya only encourages me to keep up to her speed. We’re there for each other in this journey,” says Maheshwari.
A never-ending journey
Milind Soman, the brand ambassador of Colors Pinkathon will personally supervise their training by giving them tips and guidance on endurance, strength building and nutrition for the next two months. He will be pacing the two visually-impaired athletes throughout the run. “The two girls are running a very long distance for the first time in their life at the Spirit of Pinkathon, a 150-km run, from August 2-4. We’ve been constantly monitoring their sleep cycle and adequate nutrients. Connectivity with the partner is important for them and to maintain a pace might be the challenging part,” he says.
Colors Pinkathon was launched in Chennai in 2014. The upcoming fifth edition on August 5 will be the biggest women’s run in different categories 3 km ,5 km, 10 km and 21 km. “We want to sensitise everyone that fitness is important across age groups and physical abilities. We’ve women running as part of the Pinkathon from more than 50 cities. Running has become a part of the mainstream culture and is growing rapidly. There are childbearing mothers, cancer survivors and women as old as 102 who take it up as a fitness activity. Along with a major presence abroad, I also want to introduce Colors Pinkathon in Jhumri Telaiya and Tehran. Sports is after all a key to fight obstacles. From this year we will be celebrating the Pinkathon Day on October 21,” shares Milind.