1 July, 2018
Today, we bring you the inspirational story of a senior citizen marathon runner, who started running after he crossed the so-called retirement age of 60! Meet Mr Ram Prakash Nirmal, who is currently aged 67, and ran his 46thmarathon this week. Just talking to him leaves you amazed at his positivity. Even the Chairman of his organisation feels that Mr Nirmal, such a bundle of energy and physical and mental fitness, is not ready to be retired yet. Currently working for Albert David, the pharmaceutical company in Delhi, Mr R P Nirmal gives himself time till 100, when he will take voluntary retirement.
What got him started?
It was in 2009 that Mr R P Nirmal accompanied one of his friends to Delhi, to join him for the Delhi half marathon, a 7 km run. Starting from India Gate, he finished his run in under an hour. Post the race, he patiently waited in the queue along with the other runners to collect his medal for marathon completion. He was very disappointed to learn that the medal was only for the full marathon runners, those who completed 21 km. However, he pledged that next year, he would achieve it. And complete he did, in 2010, in a time of 2 hours 40 minutes.
This episode became a turning point in his life and set him on the course for running plenty of marathons. He takes part in as many as he can and is the proud recipient of 45 coveted medals on his shelf. He is now gunning to complete 50 medals by 15th August this year. On regular days, he practices and runs anywhere up to 25 km. His family is fully supportive of his quest and feel proud of him, especially when others quote him as encouragement.
How it changed his life?
He says that in his society, people address him as “Young Man” and that is his nickname. So the whole perception of senior citizens not being able to do such things, of being old etc. has changed. He feels younger, energetic and more positive. His achievements have encouraged many friends and neighbours to start running, and this gives him great joy as well. He says he has incorporated the Positive Medal Attitude (PMA) in his DNA and also passes it on to others, whenever he gets a chance.
His view on elders
He quotes Mark Twain and says that age is just a matter of the mind and that if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter! His advice to senior citizens is that they should not allow age to control their life or lifestyle. He also does not believe in adding years to life, instead focuses on adding life to years. He is very clear that it is not in living many years, but in what we have accomplished in those years that matter. He mentions Fauja Singh, the marathon runner from England who started running at 90 and is the oldest runner, as his role model. He is very sure that God has given equal opportunities and abilities to people and that it is up to us to make the best use of what we have.
What can work well for seniors and what support do they need?
He feels regular exercise, whether walking, jogging or yoga, etc. can be beneficial for senior citizens. His advice is not to bring age as an excuse for not doing anything. He feels that senior citizens should never feel helpless, they should stay mentally fit and alert. If they have any hobbies, especially forgotten ones, they should revive it and take joy in it.
Isolation as per him is the biggest threat that the senior citizens face. So, he calls upon them to avoid isolation and socialise in all possible ways. Isolation can lead to depression, and that can be dangerous. Hence, he suggests that senior citizens should mingle and form groups and clubs, and discuss their problems, share their experiences and feel empowered. He suggests Pranayam as a simple form of exercise to stay physically and mentally fit.
Mr RP Nirmal feels that initiatives like Samarth are great for senior citizens as it is meant exclusively for them. People should take advantage of such communities. There is a lot of variety available in Samarth in terms of articles and magazines to read, shopping, mingling, tours and travels, and also care packages. He is worried that reading as a habit is completely disappearing and urges people to read as that keeps one mentally fit as well as helps in gaining knowledge.
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