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A 7-km run at the Standard Chartered Marathon in 2004 turned out to be the turning point in the life of Amarjeet Singh Chawla and for the lives of many others whom he continues to inspire every day. The event became one of many that led Amarjeet to participate in 130 half-marathons (21.1 km), scale the 19,830ft Kailash Parikrama in Tibet, and pursue many more such daring exploits. The only difference is that he did it all while being completely blind in both eyes.
Amarjeet wasn’t born blind though. He was a perfectly healthy and active child who loved playing sports. Things took a turn for him when during a regular eye checkup camp at school he was told that his vision isn’t normal. He was diagnosed with macular degeneration at the age of 13 which would cause him to lose his vision gradually to a point that he will be completely blind one day. “The thought of becoming 100% blind shook both my parents and me. It was the only reason I couldn’t become a fighter pilot back then,” he said.
Amarjeet tried living as normal a life as he could for the next few years, doing the same crazy things he loved to do. Then at the age of 40, he lost his complete vision and was blind. Like any other average person, he went into depression for about two years. While he had a supportive set of family and friends who helped him eventually snap out of depression, he continued to feel an emptiness and incompleteness inside of him.
The Sporty Sikh
He tried keeping his adventurous side alive by going on small treks in Maharashtra. It was a message from the National Association for the Blind (of which he was a member) that helped him discover his calling. The message said that a group of blind people from NAB would participate in the first-ever Marathon in Mumbai and will be escorted by runners from the Standard Chartered Bank. After successfully completing the 7-km run, he ran his first half marathon (21.1 km) at Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2015 along with his escort. The encouragement from people like Kapil Dev and Anil Ambani boosted his confidence and after that, there was simply no looking back!
Today, after almost 16 years, Amarjeet holds a world record for 130 half marathons completed by a blind man. In addition, he has completed sixty-seven 10kms and 12kms runs and five ultra runs (17, 24, 38, 50, 55kms). He also holds world records for scaling the height of 19,830ft Dolma Pass in Kailash Parikrama, rappelling down from 1,100ft Takmak Point in Raigad.
Besides setting numerous world records, Amarjeet Singh Chawla recently completed the Mumbai-Pune run/walk and became the first blind person (60+) to do so. He has also completed countless treks in the Himalayas (Himachal and Uttrakhand) and Sahyadris. In swimming, he won the gold medal in 50mts freestyle in All India Swimming Competition for Disabled in 2004, silver medal in 50mts freestyle in Maharashtra Swimming Competition for Disabled in 2005, bronze in 50mts breast-stroke in Maharashtra Swimming Competition for Disabled in 2007.
His latest achievement was becoming the first blind person in the world (60+ years) to do bungee-jumping from 197 feet, a feat he accomplished in December 2021.
His sporting exploits have earned him the sobriquet “The Sporty Sikh”, reminding one of another equally determined individual “Milkha Singh” who was revered as “The Flying Sikh” for his athletic achievements.
Amarjeet says that he does not pursue the records as an ego-massaging exercise but as a means to inspire others. “Finally, I can say that I don’t feel like a blind person who lost his vision and hope in life. I can proudly say that I didn’t give up and became someone whom people would pity. When people say I inspire them, I feel even more motivated to achieve newer records. Through my example, I wish to convey to all that there is no Disability, only Ability,” he proudly says as he prepares to conquer yet another sporting milestone – 151 half marathons.
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