John Nielsen is 30 years-old but a self-proclaimed “kid-at-heart”. We sat down – at our respective computers – and he answered a few questions about his running habits, his personal life, and his main inspiration for representing the Rachel Swart Fund this year. John has already raised over 11,400 ZAR, which is ALMOST the cost of a motorised wheelchair. To contribute to his campaign, check out his fundraising page on GivenGain.
We know your name. But tell us a little bit about yourself! How old are you? Where do you hail from? What do you do for a living? Do you have a favourite colour? Anything and everything that says a little something about who you are.
I am a 30-year-old but a kid at heart. I was born and bred in Johannesburg, going to KEPS and KES then studying finance and law at Wits. I am married to the most incredible wife and we have 2 cats and 2 dogs. I am a practising attorney operating in the corporate commercial space with a focus on private equity and M&A. I am hugely passionate about fitness and sport and have been playing competitive sports since I can remember.
I actually don’t enjoy running (I enjoy finishing running immensely), but my family loves the sport for some reason, and we have made the 2 oceans an event we all attend and compete in each year. I think the 2019 race will be my mother’s 8th and my brothers 5th.
Have you run the Old Mutual Two Oceans Half Marathon before? How about other marathons or races? If you are a veteran, what would you say is the most rewarding part of participating in this event?
This will be my fourth 2 oceans. My first race was the hardest thing I have ever done, I finished in about 2 hours 50 min. Last year (2018) I ran a PB of about 1 hour and 56 minutes. I am hoping to go under 1 hour 50 min this year. The most rewarding part of the two oceans for me is finishing the distance, which doesn’t come easily to me, and seeing my family cross the finish line. The beers and laughs we share after the race are equally important though and the reason we keep coming back each year.
You mentioned before that your father was in a wheelchair for most of your life. How have those experiences influenced your participation in a fundraising event for a non-profit organisation like the Rachel Swart Fund? On a personal note, what is your favourite memory of your father? What was he like?
My father was a stubborn man who refused to let anyone tell him what he could and couldn’t do. He taught me how to play cricket, soccer, rugby, swim and a 100 other things from his wheelchair as best he could. He was on the side-lines of every one of my sports matches. He fell in love with archery some years after his accident and had a dream of going to the Paralympics. He shot for South Africa, out of his electric wheelchair at the disabled world champs in Singapore and taught mentally and physically handicapped people and children how to shoot. He came up with a business that helped support blind, paraplegic and brain damaged people to earn an honest living.
So, in short, he was everything you would wish for a father to be, save that he had to be that person from a wheelchair.
What about the Rachel Swart Fund or the work we do resonates most with you?
Seeing and living with someone who is dependent on others (and wheelchairs, carers, medical intervention etc) is a humbling experience and teaches you to stop making excuses for not living your best life. My father would have absolutely loved to take even one step of any race after his accident so it is pretty hard for me to not run and give it my hundred percent best every opportunity I get. The fact that this year I have also managed to raise some money for the Rachel Swart Fund will just make every step I make all the sweeter.
The Rachel Swart Fund would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to John Nielsen – and those who have supported him! – for his generosity and commitment to helping us realize our mission. Now, one of our hugely deserving beneficiaries will be able to achieve the mobility and independence that are their fundamental human rights.