Fighting all odds due to a genetic disorder that causes progressive loss of vision, Sagar Baheti of Bangalore has achieved a rare distinction of finishing his race at the prestigious Boston Marathon in the visually impaired category. 31-year-old Baheti qualified for the Boston Marathon in the visually impaired category and finished the race at the 18th spot. 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 yesterday. More than 30,000 runners took part in Boston Marathon, one of the oldest and most prestigious events in the world. Besides elite race (men and women), there were categories of visually-impaired, mobility-impaired, wheelchair and handcycle runners. Running with Bib Number 26652, Baheti crossed the finish line holding the Indian tri-colour up in the air, according to reports. His parents were there to cheer him. He is being supported by the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI). 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 keeps 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. Presently, 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 ran marathons before -- the Ladakh Marathon, the Coorg Escapade and the Bangalore ultra- marathon -- but Boston was his first outside India.
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