Bengaluru to Boston, Baheti's journey of grit

Bengaluru to Boston, Baheti's journey of grit

Visually impaired runner completes marathon

Bengaluru to Boston, Baheti's journey of grit

 In a tremendous show of grit, the Bengaluru-based Sagar Baheti became the first visually impaired Indian runner to complete the prestigious Boston Marathon Monday.

The 31-year-old Baheti qualified for the Boston Marathon in the visually impaired category and finished the race in 18th spot in his class. He covered the 42.195 km distance in 4 hours, 14 minutes and 7 seconds to become the first Indian to compete and finish in the visually impaired category on Monday.

More than 30,000 runners took part in the Boston Marathon, one of the oldest and most prestigious events in the world. Besides elite race (men and women), there were categories for  visually-impaired, mobility-impaired, wheelchair and handcycle runners.

Baheti crossed the finish line holding the Indian tri-colour up in the air. His parents Vishnukanta and Naresh Baheti were there to cheer him. He is being supported by the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

"This has to be one of the most significant days for me," Sagar told ESPN. "I told myself, 'Even if I have to crawl to the finish line, I am not letting it go. I have to cross the line.'"

Baheti ran with sighted guides. A Boston-based former college friend acted as one such guide. Normally, a visually- impaired runner is allowed to use two guides, one at a time, one from start to halfway mark and the other the second half till the end.

These guides read passing signs, give descriptions of surroundings and keep the athlete posted on the race distance and time.

Four years ago, Baheti was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a genetic disorder that causes progressive deterioration of the central portion of retina. He may never be entirely blind, but his vision will get worse — he would not be able to see past a few centimetres — and it may be hard for him to distinguish colours. At present, Baheti cannot identify objects beyond one metre.

Sagar needed physical activity that could challenge him while being minimally skills-based. That’s how he picked running a few years ago. He has run marathons before — the Ladakh Marathon, the Coorg Escapade and the Bangalore ultra-marathon — but Boston was his first outside India.