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Neville J Bilimoria runs for a cause

Marathon is an event where everyone is equal and ordinary at the starting line, but a legend is born at the finish line.

An immigration consultant who achieved to become a marathoner, cyclist, a National Silver Medalist in Rowing, Founder and Brand Ambassador of Dawn To Dusk Marathon and also Brand Ambassador - Bal Sanjeevani Cerebral Palsy Rehab Centre, holding the National Record in Running and having his name engrossed in LIMCA book of records 2014, a distinguished person – Neville J Bilimoria.

He was always quite active in running, cycling, gardening, NCC and cultural activities from his school days. Along with these outdoor activities he had a drive to do something different.

Fitness was never questionable for him as he was already a National Silver Medalist in rowing. He started running short distances of 6 to 10 kms in January 2010. But being a senior partner of Bilimoria & Associate, an immigration consultant specializing in permanent residence visas, he had to juggle his time with work, which was 10 am to 5 pm and also continue to be actively involved in community service activities. “My running practice havs always been in the night after 10 pm as this gives me peace of mind to run as long as I want, and sometimes, I end up in doing more due to the time in hand with the night runs,” says Neville.
Neville J Bilimoria runs for a cause,marathon,cycling
Eventually, with the practices at night he was able to cover longer distances. He ran the MARG’s Marathon in August 2010 and that ignited the spirit of motivation in him to do more. At that time he came across the Chennai Runners and joined them. He actively participated in their runs as well. “I knew I had it in me and my desire to run Marathons increased,” mentions Neville.

That’s when he decided to start running Marathons every month from August 2010 running 14 marathons in 14 months in 6 different countries, “Lot of efforts were put into training, running and strengthening the training to achieve 14 marathons in 14 months,” he says.

Night marathon was born and conducted for the first time in Chennai on 27th of September, 2014 raising awareness for Liver Foundation supported by Apollo Hospitals, second night Marathon in the country next to Bangalore.

Back in 2010, when he visited Bal Sanjeevani hospital for the first time to contribute a small amount for the children affected by Cerebral palsy, he knew it was time to give back to the ‘God’s Own Children’. In 2013, he decided to run and raise funds for Bal Sanjeevani for God’s Own Children specifically by buying Thera suits; these are soft dynamic proprioceptive orthotic usually worn by children with spasticity which were originally designed for the Astronauts. These Thera suits gave stability to stand and walk. This showed a great improvement on those children. “I was pleased to be appointed as the Brand Ambassador for Bal Sanjeevani as I was very keen to always give back through my passion to these children,” says Neville.

He had set a target to do twelve marathons within a year and break loose. But he ended up doing 14 Marathons in 14 Months. Right after he finished the 12th marathon, he was invited for the 13th in Colombo, which tempted him so badly that he took it up. Neville says, “I never thought I would see the finish line, but ultimately did end up reaching it.” He also adds, “The 14th was in my most favourite running destination- IIT campus. It was conducted by Chennai Runners again and there was no way I was saying no to run in my city!”

The 13th one in Colombo in October 2011 was an unforgettable experience for Neville. As Colombo was having its own marathon after ages, they were not tuned to perfection. He had to stop at the 29th km due to an accident that happened in front of his eyes. A fellow runner was hit and run by an auto. On trying to help her, he was also hit by a scooter and ended up with bruises in left arm, elbow and left leg. Neville narrates, “It took nearly 19 minutes for the ambulance to reach us and I thought this was the end of my Colombo marathon, unfinished.” But to his surprise, another marathoner with a bleeding knee was inside the ambulance. “I had an option of waiting for another ambulance to come or run to the finishing point. It took me just a moment to decide to have the hit and run marathoner go first and for self to run and complete the Marathon,” he says. He was pushing hard, both mind and body till the end, to feel good that he not only helped out someone but also made his 13th marathon a success, and at the end of this marathon he had tears in his eyes.

Among his 34 marathons, the San Francisco is his favourite for the city route being beautiful beyond words and is felt most while running over the Golden Gate bridge. In March 2014, Neville completed 1000 Kms of cycling for the Longest Cycling event of the Madras Randonneurs, and now, he is a Super Randonneur for the 3rd consecutive year by completing the series of 200 Km, 300 Km, 400 km, 600 Km in 2011-2012, 2012-13 and 2013-14 respectively.
“When I had the opportunity to run around the world and I saw different athletes raising funds for a good cause, I thought why not I combine both my passion of the sport of Running and Cycling and come forward to raise funds for the under privileged children and that’s when Neville’s Dawn to Dusk was born,” he says. In the year 2013, children from all walks of life took part in the event and the Chennai Trekking club took full in charge of the Childrens’ run and people from all walks of life taking part in the Dawn to Dusk event. To conduct Neville’s Dawn to Dusk, a team of well-wishers from both the running and cycling fraternity came together and have been getting the event going. The response every year to Dawn to Dusk has been amazing turnout of participants from children and adults, both for running and cycling. He says, “It has not been easy but I believe that hard work pays at the end, and I am happy for all the efforts that have been put in. I have made friends from the cycling and running community for life!!”

He joined Round Table in the year 2002 and was involved in numerous social activities. Not only did he take up responsibility for projects, fund raising, fellowship, publicity, secretaryship, but also became the Chairman of his Table at Madras Cosmopolitan Round Table (MCRT) 94. “I was blessed to be a part of MCRT 94 - a great bunch of like-minded men, and we worked together and gave our best in all our activities to give back to the society in our own way,” he says gratefully.

Most unassuming President of India, Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam sir's speech carried the messages that a common person could relate to. He inaugurated 55 new classrooms and 22 toilet blocks that were built under the Freedom Through Education banner from the funds raised through Central Government of India, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and other fund raising events conducted by team efforts of table members under Neville’s Chairmanship. "The Former President’s presence for the inauguration was a big boost and made headlines for the inauguration of our classrooms. Almost 3000 children from different schools gathered to listen to his speech. That was the first time in the history of Round Table India (RTI) that, in a single year, a project had attracted such sizeable donations," recollects Neville.

On talking about his future plans, Neville narrates, “I will take it step-by-step and will keep contributing as much as I can to raise every rupee to help the poor children live happy through raising funds to build classrooms for Education, Medical aid, Food requirement for feeding the hungry children. Through these sporting activities are only done with the Almighty’s blessings and a team which supports me every time, I’d like to find ways that would benefit those who can’t even have a fragment of what we have. I am sure all of you can find ways in a small way to give back to the society.

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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 16th November 2014.
IJ Anita Tejwani
IJ Anita Tejwani is a contributing writer at Inspiration Unlimited eMagazine.

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