Germany! Dream Your Dreams

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"Dream your dream": With a handicap to the finish
Because he no longer wanted to hide himself and his body, Rajesh Durbal one day signed up for a five-kilometer run. It was the first step towards a new life in which he now covers incredible distances on prostheses.

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Ulrike Nikola
Ulrike Nikola
It's not always easy, not to say it's torture. And yet Rajesh Durbal is living his dream, for which he has been training and fighting for years. In the long-distance triathlon Challenge Roth, he swims 3.8 kilometers, bikes 180 kilometers and then runs 42 kilometers, although he was born missing both lower legs and his right forearm.

That is why he is dependent on prostheses, which, however, chafe and hurt under such great stress. "I often have blisters and the stumps are sore," says the 44-year-old from Florida, and sometimes the ends of the body are completely numb. Nonetheless, Rajesh Durbal keeps putting himself through the agony not only to prove he can do it, but to prove he exists. Because half his life he had hidden himself and his body full of shame.

Believe in your own dreams
In his mid-20s, his life took a turn when he started running. First Rajesh Durbal covered short distances of a few kilometers, then they got longer and longer. "Dream your dream" is his advice to everyone. He wishes everyone to believe in their dreams and if one dream doesn't come true, then dream another dream.

For him this has come true. In 2010 he was the first triathlete to be described as a "triple amputee" to compete in the Ironman in Hawaii. Other long-distance competitions followed, including in Roth in 2018. So now he's back in Franconia for a comeback at Challenge Roth, where he particularly appreciates the family atmosphere. Rajesh Durbal does not live in a hotel, but with a host family in Hilpoltstein.

Enormous physical and mental strain
His guest father Joachim Weinbrenner, who himself used to travel the world as a triathlete, shows the greatest respect: "It's an incredible physical and mental achievement, because Rajesh not only has to do the hard training and competition like all the other triathletes, but also with the cope with the pain. Ultimately, the prostheses are an emergency solution. I find it just incredible," says Weinbrenner.

Whether walking, cycling or running, Rajesh Durbal needs different prostheses for each type of locomotion. For example, the wheel prostheses have a special device so that they click into the click pedals, while the running prostheses look like a semicircle. Do you speed up running?

Really free only in the water
No, on the contrary, says Rajesh Durbal. Running a marathon on these prostheses requires additional strength because you can't stand still on them. "It's very shaky and it takes a lot of energy to balance while walking. You can see I'm constantly balancing and tripping back and forth. It's like standing on tiptoe all the time," he explains.

His favorite discipline is swimming, because he only feels really free in the water because he can crawl without prostheses. His healthy left arm has to make up for what his right arm lacks in muscle. At the same time, his thighs compensate for the missing lower legs. So he will enjoy the 3.8-kilometre swim in the Main-Danube Canal on the landing stage in Hilpoltstein to the fullest before switching to his bike.

Encourage other people
Long distance triathlon is inherently a pain and every athlete gets to the point where it hurts. But what Rajesh Durbal achieves because of his handicap is more than a challenge. It shows incredible willpower. At the same time, sport has given him the strength and self-confidence that make life worth living for Rajesh Durbal.

He would like to pass this experience on to others and encourage them. He therefore speaks regularly to people in hospitals and prisons, goes to schools and universities. He wants to show them that you can overcome many obstacles if you believe in yourself and fight.

14 hours to the finish
In Roth, Rajesh Durbal wants to take it easy this time and not exceed his physical limit like a while ago in another competition that ended up in the hospital for him. He made that promise to his mother back in Florida. That's why he's planning around 14 hours for his comeback in Roth before he finally runs through the finish line in the evening - an amazing performance on prostheses.