DUBAI // Two months ago, Dilip Aidasani's exercise regime was nonexistent. Yesterday, the 34-year-old Indian financier celebrated running his 259th kilometre at a local gym, and he has pledged to keep on running. Mr Aidasani found the motivation to get moving through a running campaign that aims to raise funds for the Manzil Centre for Challenged Individuals in Sharjah. "I have to tell you, I was not into this kind of fitness programme before," said Mr Aidasani, who is participating in "Run The World in 80 Days", a campaign set up by his employers at Zurich Financial Services. The company is encouraging individuals to run or walk a minimum of 10km within three days at branches of Fitness First.
Everyone who takes part should be sponsored at least Dh10 per kilometre, and all money raised is to be donated to the Manzil centre. Participants can run their 10km in three slots if they can't face doing it all at once. Everyone who registers receives three free passes to any Dubai branch of Fitness First. The gym's staff monitor the distance covered and add it to the total. Having run every other day for two months, Mr Aidasani not only has raised Dh2,650 for the five-year-old charity, but also has lost 9kg and gained a hobby.
"It just clicked," he said. "I had joined Fitness First three weeks earlier with a mind to start a fitness regime. This was the only chance I had to do something for charity that involved fitness." During his first treadmill session, Mr Aidasani notched up 4.5km. The process was slow and painful but 50 sessions later, he said, his time and stamina have improved dramatically and he now runs 10km every other day.
"With the sponsorship I had from people, I felt I had a purpose and found the commitment I needed to change my lifestyle," he said. "I actually started to enjoy it when I found I was doing well with it. I knew I had to run 250km to fulfil my pledge to those who had sponsored me, but I didn't know how to approach it, so I asked the trainers for advice and they suggested I run on an alternate [day] basis."
The "Run The World in 80 Days" campaign was launched on June 1 and aims to notch up 50,000km in 80 days. With only seven days to go until the campaign ends, more than 4,000km have been logged and Dh50,000 has been raised. Now organiser Harry Hanscomb is urging all Dubai residents to get up and get active before it's too late. "At this point, if people want to come and run and give a donation, that's fine," said Mr Hanscomb. "Anyone can take part - individuals or companies. We have a long way to go but we will certainly try to get there in the next few days. It's the final push and we want people to join us."
Every fil raised goes towards the day-to-day running costs of the centre, which provides heavily subsidised educational support and vocational training to children and adults who live with a range of conditions, including autism and Down's syndrome. "At the moment, we need [the money raised] to breathe, to survive," said Ayesha Saeed, the director of Manzil. "Usually, when money is raised we have a project to fund with it, but at the moment we don't have that luxury."
The global economic downturn, Ms Saeed said, had affected donations to the organisation. "When people have to cut costs, the first thing they cut down on are the frills, and corporate social responsibility went out of the window for most companies as a first step," she said. "We call people like Harry our lifeline here because they are helping us survive. We are in survival mode, which is true for most charities, I'm sure."