The best way to describe the scene at the Army Equestrian Centre was one huge athletic mela. And Nagma Nigal was trying to soak in every moment - afterall, her hard work had finally paid off. After days of practice in a park near her house, she finally won the race for Visually Challenged in the sixth year of her participation in the Salwan Cross Country Run, presented by HT. Ankur Dhama completed a hattrick, winning the boy's event three years in a row."Its like a dream come true, this time luck played an important factor in my victory," said Nagma, who is partially blind. The 'luck' factor that she mentioned had something to do with her running partner. Hundreds of visually challenged children - with varying degree of blindness- participated in the race and a volunteer accompanied each of them on the 3.5 km route. The volunteer's job was to hold the hand of the participant and guide them through the route. Ironically, the volunteers looked more tired at the finish line, sweating and squatting to catch their breath, while the participants looked fresh and a little frustrated.
"This time I got a very good volunteer. In previous years, they used to tire out while I used to feel quite capable of running faster," Nagma said, pointing towards Lalboy Mangte, her running partner.
Making its debut this year was the 'Special Race' for the intellectually challenged. About a hundred odd girls and boys belonging to the NGO Special Olympics Bharath ran the length with Mohd Zakir and Sneha Nagpal, both suffering from dyslexia, winning it. It was nothing short of a Sunday-morning picnic for the children, who gathered after the day's work for refreshments as others fretted about the age category results.
Surendra Kumar, one of the coaches associated with the NGO, could not have been happier with the opportunity his wards were getting. He was full of praise for his "special" kids, especially eight-year-old Garima Rana, who finished fourth among girls. She was there with her mother, who explained that Garima suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
The other age-category athletes slugged it out for top honours, with under-18 boy's event witnessing a photo-finish. The ground could have done with more dustbins but for the 47,000 participants there, little mattered when a bhangra dance group took the stage. A great mela indeed.