For Alsaba Shama, the chance to participate in the Mumbai marathon on January 15 has been the highlight of her year for the past three years.
The 14-year old was born without forearms and is studying at the School for the Education of the Crippled (SEC).
This year, the wheelchair race being increased from 2.5km to 4.3km. This segment of the marathon has been steadily growing popular. “I participated in the marathon last year and was amazed by the crowd, the flashing cameras and noise everywhere,” said Shama, whose father is a garment seller.
The teachers and students of the School for the Education of the Crippled (SEC) have spent the past few weeks planning their biggest outing of the year. 25 students, who suffer from various physical disabilities including cerebral palsy and congenital defects, will participate in the Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon 2012. Aged between 12 and 15 years, the students will be accompanied by alumni and staff members at the race to raise awareness about the treatment of the physically challenged in the city. “There's a certain buzz in the school, an excitement about the race that has captured the minds of all the students here, even the ones who are not participating,” said Manju Utamchandani, programme director for the school.
“The children who will take part in the race have got the required permissions from the doctor, and we have even made arrangements for an emergency, should one come up.”
The idea to participate in the marathon came about when Utamchandani, who suffers from polio herself, ran the race many years ago. Overwhelmed by the crowd's support as she slowly completed the race, she thought it would be a great experience for the children as well.
Students choose a theme every year. This year, in keeping with the theme, Spread the Fragrance, children will dress as flowers.
“It is important that our children participate in the race so they can remind society that they are a part of it as well. The theme is to point out that given the right facilities, they too will be able to blossom,” said Laxmi Shinde, the school principal.