Athletes breaking world records are common news, but what about a 102-year-old woman competing in the World Masters Games while clocking up in both the 100-metres and 200-metres race?
She is none other than Man Kaur, who is humbly lodging in a partially furnished two-room flat at the Punjabi University campus in Patiala. Despite her outstanding achievements, there has been barely any media coverages or interviews broadcast for everyone to see.
Kaur led the average widowed life in Chandigarh, Punjab, with her life revolving around her children and grandchildren. Her eldest son, Gurdev Singh, was so passionate about athletics that he managed to convince Kaur to start running at the age of 93. This was what Singh said to his mother:
Why don’t you run? There is nothing wrong with you physically. You have no health problems, no knee problems, no blood pressure, no heart problem.
A Late Running Journey
Ever since then, Kaur has started running, loved it, and did not turn back. She went on to achieve her very first gold medal while clocking up a new record at the Chandigarh Masters Athletics 2010 where she took part in the 100-metres sprint event. On top of that, she also participated in the 200-metres sprint event and set a new record timing at two minutes and twenty-nine seconds.
However, the training process was difficult. Out of the four universities in the Punjab state, the only Punjabi University has an athletics track and there was no facility near their home in Chandigarh.
The only official help they have received was an offer to live in the tiny, second-floor apartment on the Punjabi University campus so that they could use the tracks. However, having no lift in the building was a big inconvenience to Kaur, but it was the only flat available and they took the place happily as long as it is close to the tracks.
In their apartment, both mother and son shared a bedroom while the second room was used to grow numerous clay pots of high in antioxidants, vitamins and mineral wheatgrass in which Kaur drinks two tablespoons of wheatgrass juice every day. Singh spends his time in the kitchen to prepare his mother the savoury pancakes twice a day from the combination of sprouted black chickpeas and sprouted organic wheat.
He would grind the combination into a thick paste while adding some vegetable and then pouring it out like a thick pancake onto a griddle and cooks on both sides with a little oil and spices. Aside from that, another staple food would be a glass of kefir, which is a fermented yoghurt drink, every day.
These were the only unusual items in Kaur’s diet and she would have three of these for lunch and three for dinner, along with vegetables or pulses cooked in the traditional Indian way. Consuming meat was entirely stopped 20 years ago after reading the Hindu religious text of the Bhagavad Gita that said eating animal flesh was wrong. Additionally, this was what she mentioned about her diet:
I avoid junk food. I hardly ever have tea or coffee or soft drinks. No cakes or biscuits. No fried things, and no sweets. I don’t even eat eggs.
When people spark an interest in her longevity, mobility and fitness, Kaur herself does not know the answer, but suspects about the importance of being physically active. She used to work as a nanny for the royal family as cooked, cleaned, washed, ironed and even chase after the family heirs all day. Even after leaving the job, she continued her entire life as a housewife.
Even today, every day, after my bath, I wash my own clothes. These days, people have maids and cooks who do everything for them. I think it’s better to do all your chores yourself because your body stays supple and fit that way.
Both she and her husband were physically active, just that he would prefer cycling everywhere in his old age. Unfortunately, he passed at age 102.
Since starting her competitive career, Kaur has run in meets in Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan.
At the Auckland World Masters Games, Man Kaur was the only participant from India who won the 100-metres with a time of one minute and fourteen seconds in the centenarian category, winning the 17th gold medal of her career. After a while, her friend encouraged her to try out javelin too, in which Kaur took up the challenge and managed to enter the Guinness Book of Records with a javelin throw of 5.12 metres.
Gurdev Singh sang her prayers along in Auckland but mentioned:
At Auckland, there was a media scrum for her. There was a dinner in her honour. Everyone wanted to talk to her, and she was made a fuss of. She was taken to speak to schoolchildren at three schools to inspire them and answer questions but here in Punjab, I asked senior sports officials if they would like her to participate in races in schools, to give children a chance to interact with her, but I got no reply.
Her medals and trophies are all displayed in the middle of her bedroom, but as a distinguished and devoted son, Singh was not at all jealous of his mother, but bewildered at the fact that there was a lack of public recognition for her.
There was a situation when they were both denied visa access to attend the Asian Masters Athletics Championships even though they had an invitation letter from the Master’s organisation themselves. However, this obstacle was small enough to get over as they continued training for the future World Masters Games.
Finally, this was what Man Kaur had to say overall:
The key is to be physically active and have a clear conscience. Be honest and treat people well. Don’t harm anyone.
If I didn’t know that Kaur is still running after 100 years old, I wouldn’t believe it was possible. But now that I know she’s done it, I hope that I can do the same if I even lived till that age. What will you be doing if you can live over 100 years old? Let us know in the comments.