Born with vision only in one of her eyes, it is the indomitable spirit and confidence displayed by 20-year-old Divya that will be the highlight of Pinkathon 2018.
First unveiled in 2012, the Pinkathon entered the Indian milieu with the goals of raising awareness about breast cancer and empowering every single woman across the country.
But the greater message the first-of-its-kind marathon intended to drive home was that women were the key to a healthier and fitter society, and the first step towards their empowerment was to encourage them to take control of their own health while respecting, understanding and celebrating the value they brought to their family and society.
Empowerment is not a gift of society; it is a gift you give yourself.
Founded by notable figures Milind Soman and Reema Sanghavi, the marathon doesn’t just vouch for empowerment or healthier lifestyles for women, but also vehemently advocates that no disability should be a barrier to one’s dreams.
Which is exactly the reason why the Pinkathon has been at the forefront of encouraging differently-abled individuals who nurse the desire of running and goes out of the way to help them achieve this goal.
One such individual is 20-year-old V Divya from Chengalpet in Chennai, who was born with vision only in one of her eyes.
But this limitation never stopped her from falling in love with sports while growing up, and she soon found her forte in the 100m sprint. She began running at sporting events from class 5 and participated at various state and national level events. “One of my proudest moments was when I represented my school, Little Flower Convent at an inter-sports meet in Punjab in 2016,” Divya says to The Better India.
Currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Literature at the Queen Mary’s College, she had to put a hold on her running dreams to meet the expenses for her higher education.
Unlike her time in school where she had a lot of support and assistance, there weren’t many opportunities for Divya to pursue running once she entered college. However, when the Pinkathon came calling, she knew she had to do it!
Interestingly, marathons were something Divya used to be afraid of. “I am a 100m sprinter and marathons were something that was difficult to prepare. From proper fitness and nutrition to practice and training, there was so much to learn. But life itself has always been a challenge, and as I have always done, I intend to face every obstacle that comes along the way with confidence,” she says.
Fate always has a strange way of putting things in place.
Divya’s story somehow came to the notice of the Pinkathon team, who reached out to the young sprinter with the aim of helping her prepare well for the marathon in May.
Understanding that Divya had never participated in a marathon before, a team under the mentorship of Soman was deployed to train her, and so, her training began in June. “For the next one and half months, I had to run for extended periods of time to become fit enough for a marathon and an essential aspect throughout this period was to remain hydrated. Not only did the team provide me with proper nutrition and guidance, but also gave me running gear including shoes,” she shares.
This year’s Pinkathon, which was flagged off today, will witness Divya running alongside Soman, as India’s first visually impaired girl to run ‘The Spirit of Pinkathon Run’ from Puducherry to Chennai, covering 140 km across three days to spread the message of health and fitness for all women.
“By participating in the Pinkathon, I want to prove that anyone can do it and I am happy that I could be a role model for the visually impaired and more importantly, inspire them to believe in themselves,” she says.
Speaking to The Better India, Divya’s mentor, Soman, stated that the determination and confidence displayed by the young girl truly emulates the spirit of running and there couldn’t have been a better ambassador for the Pinkathon.
“We’d always wanted someone, who like most of us isn’t bestowed with privileges, but still believes in herself and the strength of her abilities, to be part of the Pinkathon. Through this marathon, we are only acting as a ladder for Divya to climb up to chase her dreams and in the process, inspire countless others,” he adds.
To further motivate Divya to achieve this feat, ‘See From The Heart,’ a run, was organised by the Pinkathon last week across eight cities in India where people ran with blindfolds on to support Divya’s indomitable spirit.
As much as running is Divya’s passion, there is another dream that she wishes to accomplish and she wouldn’t rest until she does! Divya wants to become a teacher and that too for people who have visual impairment like her.
“A Guru is next to God, and it is from teachers that we learn everything about life. This is the primary reason why I’ve always wanted to be a teacher so that I can teach others,” she says.
Through her participation in the Pinkathon, Divya hopes that she would be able to find some monetary support that will help her complete her B.Ed. and help her inch closer towards her dream of becoming a teacher.
Taking forward their commitment even further, the Pinkathon is raising funds through crowdsourcing that will help Divya get corrective eye surgery and subsequently, her education.
(With inputs from Ahmed Sherrif)
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)