It’s never too late to follow your heart and start something new, says Centenarian athlete Man Kaur
At 93 when most people struggle to walk, Man Kaur discovered she could run, and it was fun. Today at 103, she’s sprinting around the world, winning medals at World Masters’ meets and the happiest ever living out of a suitcase.
“It’s never too late to start something new. Just do what makes you happy,” she says, finishing off an early lunch, comprising two chapattis made of sprouted wheat dough (made like the dosa) and a bowl of lentils. Her 80-year-old son and veteran athlete, Gurdev Singh, looks on proudly as she talks about her next challenge. “I’ll be 105 when I run at the 2021 World Masters Games in Japan,” she says, her eyes growing bigger behind her thick glasses. She had excelled at the last games in New Zealand in 2017.
STAY IN THE RACE
Kaur believes in focusing on what lies ahead instead of what’s gone by. “It keeps you on track. A long life is a blessing only if you’re tandarust (healthy). So eat mindfully and exercise daily,” she says.
Her day starts around 5.30am with a glass of kefir, a Russian yoghurt that is an energy-booster. She heads for the track with her son at 6am. After warming up and stretches, they run sprints of 40 metres and gradually increase the distance to 200 metres. They wind up training by 7.45am. Her breakfast is light and comprises seasonal fruits. She has lunch around 11.30am and dinner by 6.30pm. She snacks on dry fruits/seeds and wheatgrass juice in between. She sips slowly on water, normally an hour after a meal. “Our food is home-made. Fried food and sugar are a no-no. While travelling, we prefer steamed rice and dal,” she says.
HARD WORK AND GRATEFUL HEART
Kaur has vivid childhood memories of working as a help in the Patiala royal family household when Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s grandfather Maharaja Bhupinder Singh ruled the princely state from 1900-38. “My husband was a cook and I would serve the meals in silver utensils to the maharanis,” she says.
She was the only child and lost her mother when she was six months old. Her paternal grandmother brought her up as her father struggled to make ends meet. She was married off early and her elder son, Gurdev, was born in 1938. She had four children.
Kaur worked hard and never sat idle. Even when free, she would stitch and embroider. “I can still thread a needle and hem my dupattas,” she says, looking every bit a biji (grandmother). But the moment you mention running, her face lights up. “I can’t sit or stand in one position for too long. Even doctors wonder how a woman with scoliosis due to ageing can run so effortlessly,” she says. “It’s all Guruji’s kripa (God’s grace).”
After her husband’s death a decade ago, she would accompany her son to running practice. Since her knees were fine and she had no health issues, he suggested she run along. That’s how she started in 2011.
FOND OF ADVENTURE
She loves travelling and is fond of adventure. The skywalk in Auckland, New Zealand, is her favourite so far. “Gurdev told me that I shouldn’t look down when I stepped on to the platform 192 metres above the city and that I should walk hauli hauli (slow and steady). I reminded him that I was on a sightseeing trip and ‘jithe bharosa koi dar nahin’ (there’s no fear where there’s faith),” says Kaur.
Ask her which is the best place in the world and she says, “Any place where I can run.” And her best race? “I’ve run a 5km marathon with 108-year-old Fauja Singh and sprinted with Milkha Singh, 89. I just dedicate my efforts to God.”
Running has given her recognition, the latest being an interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the launch of the Fit India Movement recently.
As for Chandigarh, her home after Patiala, she says, “I like this city. If you’re happy, you’ll run well anywhere.”
You are what you eat. Don’t order food, make it at home.
The fruit of hard work is always sweet. Use your hands for work and prayer.
What is destined will happen so leave it to God. Don’t forget to thank Him for the blessings.
Stay humble and do what makes you happy.
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