Despite epilepsy, this Delhi man pursues endurance cycling

How epilepsy made Vinay Jani more determined than ever, to keep the weight down and train his body for endurance sport

January 21, 2020 06:16 pm | Updated 06:16 pm IST

Vinay Jani in action at the Paris-Brest-Paris long-distance cycling event

Vinay Jani in action at the Paris-Brest-Paris long-distance cycling event

Vinay Jani’s WhatsApp status reads, “The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man’s determination.” Jani, who was at 135 kg at 18, lost 60 kg through diet and exercise, over seven moths. He became a regular gym goer, but at 21, had an unexpected seizure.

His doctors discovered a cyst in his brain that was non-cancerous and didn’t need an operation, but they put him on medication and said he should halt exercise and driving. “That really put me into depression,” says Jani, now 35, who, over the next three years went back to 110 kg. His turning point came when his neurologist told him that medication was given in accordance with weight. “He said you have a choice: I can increase your medication or you can lose the weight.” Jani decided on the latter.

So he went back to the gym and worked out for the next few years, sometimes asking for help for weights that were too heavy, making sure not to stress his body out too much. At 31, he had another seizure, but this time he didn’t stop exercise. He continued regular work too, as a distribution partner for Lotus Herbals.

Vinay Jani

Vinay Jani

Towards the end of 2015, his gym spin coach, Gautam Verma, who started SpinLife, a cycling group in Gurugram, asked him to come and ride. “I said I didn’t have a bike, and he immediately replied, ‘Borrow one from me,’” says Jani. He has ridden with the group ever since, going on to do a series of long-distance endurance cycling rides, called the Brevets de Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRM), culminating in an ultra (1,000 km within 75 hours, the cut-off time) in 2018.

“Someone always rides with me, and they have my SOS medication,” says Jani. Last year, even at one of the toughest cycling events, the Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1,200 km course, he had his buddies along. Jani is lucky that his family supports him in his pursuit of endurance cycling, but he also says he doesn’t miss a single dose of medication or his doctor’s appointment.

“We must speak about epilepsy more, to get rid of the stigma, and acknowledge it as a neuro condition,” says Jani, who is now training for a full marathon.

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