Nirmal has run to raise money for Sense many times. He explains how meeting one young man changed his outlook.
Most people are shocked when I tell them I am still running marathons in my 60s. Arthritis in my spine should have slowed me down but it spurred me on. Then, by chance, I met a young lad through Sense that changed everything.
My family and I came to this country when I was just 18 years old. Moving to a new place was scary but I clung onto my love from home, hockey. I had built up a reputation as a fierce competitor and continued to play with various teams.
I had to stop playing hockey
At the age of 44, I had to stop playing as my joints were being affected. Movement was becoming a struggle and sports, one of my true passions, was gone. My spine curved which caused me huge amounts of pain when I was running or even sitting. It took me years of hard work to get myself moving again.
Slowly, encouraged by my daughters, I started to take up running. Progress was slow at first but, because of my years playing hockey, my body adapted, and I found I could run further and further. This was huge for my mental and physical health and by 2009, I wanted to run my first marathon.
Now, more than ever, my support matters.
The London Marathon was mind blowing
The experience of my first London Marathon was mind blowing. The crowds and cheering filled me with so much adrenaline. To make sure I could keep running the marathon, I decided to run for charities, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I ran for Sense.
During the training for my 5th marathon in 2012, I was at my local Sikh temple where I met a girl who was visually impaired. We started talking to each other and I mentioned that I was looking for a charity to run for; this is where I first heard about Sense. Reading up about the organisation was enlightening and emotional.
I met Jai
Since then, I have run countless events for Sense and even visited some of the services. In 2019, the team at Sense held a thank you event for their supporters. There, I met a young man called Jai and his mother Pam. Pam talked to the group about her son and the difference Sense has made throughout his fight with leukaemia and Alstrom syndrome, an incredibly rare genetic disease.
When the talk was over, my wife and I spent a bit of time talking to Pam and Jai. Hearing them speak and making jokes with each other drove home why I now ran for Sense. At first it was for me, but now it was for something bigger. Jai’s optimism and charm inspired me to push my fundraising efforts.
While these efforts have been hampered by the pandemic, I am more dedicated than ever to raise money for Sense. I found the lockdowns difficult but not as difficult as the families that Sense supports.
Now, more than ever, my support matters. That's why I'm running the Royal Parks Half Marathon on 10 October for Sense. And I hope to continue raising money for Sense so they can continue to support children like Jai.