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The woman who trains 200 visually-impaired runners in Bangalore

The woman who trains 200 visually-impaired runners in Bangalore

Sohinee Basu

Published: 1 July 2019 5:24 AM GMT
Bhumika Patel, a professional runner based in Bangalore dreamt of changing lives when she picked up her running shoes. Currently, she is the Head coach of Pinkathon and also runs an initiative for underprivileged visually impaired young individuals for fitness! She has competed in prestigious Berlin, Taiwan, Copenhagen, Boston, Mumbai, Delhi, Chicago races and marathons!  Being raised in a very conservative Gujarati family, I had challenges thrown at me in every step of my life. I always nursed a soft corner for sports but coming from a middle-class background, sports was considered a risky thing and not encouraged as a professional option for me. Indirectly, I would be told to concentrate on my studies instead of considering sports, like running, as a career option. Sports is still seen as a big risk because the marks may go down and the child might get distracted, most parents want a good career to be built for the kid.
However, to avoid the criticisms, I would secretly go for the various athletic meets and compete in several short-distance running events. I even played at the State level and I would always be victorious. Back then, I did not have any formal, systematic training but I realized my potential and knack for running then onwards. Even when I became the first female engineer from my family, I was frowned upon because I was a girl. Often my relatives would ask me, "You are a girl. How can engineering suit you?".  I have had to fight a lot of stigmas to arrive where I am today. I was 35 and a corporate employee when the zeal for running came back into my life again. Honestly, I never thought that after my marriage, having kids, I would pick up running so late in my career. There were several factors which led me to pick up my running shoes. It was mainly because of health issues in my family which I saw. I was mentally affected and I was unable to cope with the everyday things that happen like going to work, handling a marriage, kids, and a lot of personal commitments and everything was seeming tougher and tougher. On top of it, the health issues were coming in and I was really worked up about it.
At that moment, my husband, who had also taken to running, decided to take me for a corporate 4k marathon where to my surprise I stood first. I would be very conscious about my attire as I had never worn clothes like that before. It was a challenge for me to be a woman runner at that time because it was not very common. I was a very closed-up person initially but ever since running came into my life, a fire has been ignited in my soul and a fresh perspective has been added to everything I do now. The issues of stress and other health problems have subsided as I can tackle them better now and have a really healthy and positive attitude towards life. Around 3 years back, I came across a bunch of visually-impaired, special kids who were all above 18 and participating in a race. I realized that they have a separate category and they were competing in that. I understood that these kids need a lot of assistance given their disability conditions as well as hailing from an underprivileged background. When I decided to help them I realized that the challenges will be huge. Firstly, it is very difficult to organize an event and bring together the underprivileged and disabled individuals under one roof and secondly, explaining the beauty of the sport of running, was another difficult task. As it is they struggle with their everyday activities and asking them to add running to their routine seemed extra and showing them the benefits of it was a big challenge for me. All of it asked for immense dedication and commitment on my part and my team's and we were willing to invest that. There was a lot of potential in them and I was sure that the running community can come together to help them. In 2016, we started off by doing small events and people from villages would even come down to participate. My team and the other volunteers put in their hard work and patience and readily guided them in these events. Today, there are around 200 visually-impaired runners who we train in Bangalore, only. They have guide runners to assist them during the race.  Around 15 from them have been trained to run marathons too. We even created an Indian record when a partially visually impaired girl, Sunita N, completed a full marathon. We also made a bi-visually impaired team record for India in the January-held Ultra Marathon.
After such a beautiful reception from all over, I decided to expand the training centers. Right now aside from Bangalore, I have opened a center in Mumbai also where around 8 visually impaired athletes have started training. Being the Head Coach for Pinkathon, I also help out women who come to me to attend fitness sessions. In return, they become guide runners and give back to the running community. My goal of being an official guide runner at the Boston Marathon has been realized this year in April. Next year again, hopefully, my team of visually impaired athletes will also qualify for Boston, which has become my goal now. In the field of running, it's important to remember that exercises and diet go hand in hand. The diet and sports routine have to be synced together. The exercises which you do have to be supported by the diet you have consumed which is why it's very crucial to have a planned diet. There is a lot of preparations that need to be done before participating in things like Marathons. One needs to have a correct and balanced diet, with enough nutrients to ensure that they are giving their one hundred percent in the race. If there is a disbalance somewhere in the diet, it will show in the form of fatigue and other issues and take a toll on the body.
If you have taken up a rigorous goal of participating in Marathons, it is very crucial to have a proper diet. I rely heavily on Fast&Up for my sports nutrition needs. Fast&Up has a lot of these daily supplements which have the essential nutrients like multi-vitamins. There is Calcium-Magnesium there for maintaining bone health. Other than this, they have Omega 3 which is to be had daily, even if you are not an athlete. It has a very high EPA-DHA content which is very beneficial. Whenever I tend to feel low on energy, I bank on Fast&Up's Activate (increases blood flow to the vessels), Reload (boosts the energy levels and is wonderful during runs) and Recover(helps cope with the fatigue post a run or a workout) drinks which are full of minerals and essential nutrients necessary for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. So if you are planning on taking up your running shoes and contributing to our community, it is important to adopt a lifestyle which accommodates the sport as a part of the daily routine. Figuring out the body's response, a plan should be made to include running in the everyday lifestyle which in turn, will lead the way to a stress-free and healthier future.
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