100kmx100 days: Samir Singh’s tireless run
On a gloomy Saturday afternoon, as a few enthusiastic souls brave the incessant downpour at Juhu beach in Mumbai, a lone figure appears in the distance, as if emerging from the choppy sea. The rain hammers down on his scrawny body, but there’s no sign that it is slowing down Samir Singh.
On 29 April, Singh started on a mission—an ultra-marathon mission, if you will—of running 100km each day for a hundred days. To put this goal in perspective, that’s the length of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway (94.5km), or like running from Gurugram to Noida and back (102km), all in a day.
By the time he finishes on 6 August, Singh would have traversed 10,000km, which is over five times the distance between Mumbai and Kolkata.
“Running is all that I know, ever since I started a decade ago. I’m from a village called Kanhakheda in the Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh. When my school building collapsed, it wiped out all records of my education. So when I came to Mumbai, I could never find a proper job,” Singh says.
“When I realized I could run, I fell in love with it. Soon, I became a running coach. It became my bread and butter and it’s all that I know today,” he adds.
He learnt about running on his own, so his story is very different from the focus on science, nutrition and recovery that today’s ultramarathons involve. Singh started running late in life—and when he saw the Kenyans at the Mumbai marathon, he wanted to compete with them. Then he figured he was better at ultramarathons. It wasn’t until last year that he started running longer distances regularly.
At the Mumbai Ultra (a 12-hour run), for instance, Singh finished on top after having logged 121km in 2016 and 107km in 2015.
He wanted to do something different, however. One thing led to the other and the 44-year-old decided to aim for 100x100.
A devotee of Lord Krishna, Singh decided to move to Vrindavan in November last year to train for five months. In between chanting and praying, he performed, like a religious ritual, the parikrama of places such as Vrindavan and Govardhan, running an average of 75km a day.
“This parikrama is performed by many. Some cover the distance crawling or even lying prostrate, so the locals thought I was another baba who chose to do it running. I too played along, instead of explaining why I was running. It was the perfect aid for my training. Besides, I had no dogs chasing me there,” he says, chuckling.
After a few practice runs of 100km each on his return to the city, Singh arrived at Shivaji Park in Dadar before sunrise on 29 April, and set out on his epic journey in peak summer.
“Those initial days, I ran barefoot. But on the road, the heat tore my sole, so I started wearing shoes. Every day is difficult for me. It’s a lot of pain and suffering, but mental strength and faith in God have seen me through so far. Jaise jaise din badh rahe hain, aise aise lag raha hai ki mera ek saal badh raha hai aur main budha ho raha hoon (Each passing day seems like a year and I feel like I’m getting old),” he quips.
Singh has lost 15kg since starting. He has no crew tailing him, nor anyone to cheer him on except for a few stray cries of “Baahubali!” from those who have seen him regularly.
His routine starts at 4.30am, and he runs around 60-70km until 1pm. After some food and rest, he resumes at 4pm, until he attains his daily mileage.
He has no fixed route—some days it’s the road, some days it’s the beach. When there are running events in the city, he joins them. The day he has aches and pain, he runs on sand, which is less taxing.
“The only problem running in the city is that there are too many potholes. During shorter distances, it’s easy to jump over them; in my case, I just have no energy to do so,” he says.
“My mother also sent me laddoos, which are extremely nutritious. They are usually given to pregnant women for strength during delivery. Mera bhi delivery jaisa hi haal ho gaya hai (I too feel as drained),” he says, bursting into laughter.
En route, he has found support through The Faith Runner campaign started by Vandana and Vikram Bhatti. Recognition in the record books seems difficult, though he has all the data on his GPS-enabled watch as proof—Singh had not informed anyone before starting out.
“Thak jata hoon, yeh ab mujhe samaj nahi aata hai (I get tired, now I don’t understand all this). I hope to do my country proud, whether my feat is recognized or not. I’ll go back to Vrindavan once I attain my target—to celebrate,” he says.
Shail Desai is a Mumbai-based writer.