For visually challenged Israeli runner Avi Solomon, running in the upcoming Abu Dhabi marathon is like a homecoming.
“I have never been so excited in my life about a marathon. I feel like I am coming home,” Solomon told Khaleej Times over phone from Israel, ahead of flying to the UAE.
“It is all happening thanks to the Abraham Accords. I am coming to meet my family that I have gained.”
Solomon is participating in the Adnoc Abu Dhabi marathon on November 26 with the aim to raise funds and awareness for Afikim, a non-profit that works for the upliftment of poor children.
“I want to inspire people to do more and help others,” said the father of seven.
Solomon, 38, is an Ethiopian Jew who came to Israel through Operation Moses in 1984. He started losing his eyesight at the age of six due to an infection. Though he temporarily regained partial vision thanks to some surgeries, he completely lost his eyesight by the age of 16.
But Solomon who has vivid memories of running around in his village in Ethiopia as a kid, did not give up his love for running.
“Running is my gift of freedom. It gives me deep joy and helps me deal with life better. I also feel that it is my responsibility to inspire other people of determination to understand that they can also break their boundaries,” said Solomon, who has participated in London Marathon twice and other competitive athletics. He has represented Israel in the International Blind Sports Federation world championship in Seoul and South Korea.
While juggling his parental responsibilities, Solomon still manages to run around 25K daily with the help of volunteers. “There is a whole team of people who volunteer to run with me whenever I want to. They are like my eyes and help me balance,” said Solomon.
The shadow runner tied to Solomon's hands with a wrist band is well-trained in guiding him during the run. “I really want to tell people who think they cannot achieve anything that if I can do it, they can also do it,” said Solomon.
Last week, the UAE’s ambassador to Israel, Mohamed Al Khaja, who ran with Solomon from Jaffa Port to Namal Tel Aviv tweeted, “You are an incredibly brave athlete, shows us the path and pushing boundaries of what is possible.”
The runner said he feels happy and honoured that he is coming to a country that supports people of determination. “This is a beacon for the world. I hope every nation will take up the same approach as the UAE does,” he said.
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