Army man gives pros a run for their money


"I clocked 2 hours and 42 minutes in the half marathon but I'm not happy. I could have done better if I hadn't got a little lost at Haji Ali. I'm hoping to improve next year," said Captain Avaneesh Bajpai an hour after crossing the finish line at Azad Maidan.

His unhappiness is baffling when you consider that he ran in the city for the first time on Sunday, and serious runners will tell him that 2.42 isn't exactly poor for a debutant, and not at all for a man who has been walking with a prosthetic leg for nearly two years.

Bajpai, a native of Kanpur, UP, is attached to the 19 Dogra regiment in Assam. In April 2011, a routine field firing exercise at a range in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, went horribly wrong and shrapnel ripped Bajpai's left thigh.

The injury was so severe that the leg had to amputated. The same year, he received a prosthetic leg at the Army's Artificial Limb Center (ALC) in Pune. "I had to undergo 16 operations to be able to run again," he said.

Bajapai is part of a team of six Indian Army soldiers who participated in this year's marathon after receiving prosthetic limbs at the ALC. "I had only 20 days to prepare and trained under Dr C N Satish. Initially, it was painful, but he began with 8.5 km and then 13.5 km and finally 21," he said.

Dr Satish is pleased with the performance of the team and reserves special praise for Bajpai. "His timing is hard even for able-bodied runners to achieve," he said.

Celebrating a decade

Over the past nine years, the Mumbai Marathon has helped raise over Rs 71 crore for charity. In its 10th year, the Mumbai Marathon had 38,620 participants, more than 35 per cent of whom were women. Almost half of the participants — 20,100 — had registered for the 6-km dream run. There were 1,150 senior citizens and 470 runners with disabilities.

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