Samir Singh undertook the herculean task of running 100 km each day for a hundred days, and though he missed his target by an agonising 36 km on the last day of this challenge, the 9,964.19 km he ran is a staggering achievement, nonetheless.

Samir Singh is an endurance athlete from a tiny village in Madhya Pradesh, and he comes across as a spiritual person, invoking the Bhagavad Gita when he first embarked on his 10,000 km journey. “I’ve loved to run since childhood, and what better than to keep on doing so for an almost infinite amount of time. Once I made up my mind to take this up, the rest was in the hands of the almighty. It was the divine power of will that felt as if a monkey got off my back, upon the completion of the challenge,” said the 44-year old, cheerily.

Since his arrival on Mumbai’s shores in 1999, the ‘Faith Runner’ has tried his luck at various things, including directing TV shows, before becoming a full-time running coach and instructor. Not only did that enable him to experiment and find the best training methods for runners, it was through one of his clients that he first learned about 100 Days of Running. She connected him to the founder of the campaign, Tanvir Kazmi, and the rest is history.

The Faith Runner

 

  • Singh’s run was longer than the Great Wall of China (5,500 km) and further than the distance from Mumbai to London (7,200 km)
  • His quickest 100 km run during the 100 days spanned 9 hours 43 minutes, while the longest lasted around 16 hours
  • He survived without a job for the last nine months, as people came forward and supported him with donations, shoes, clothes and equipment
  • The five-time ultra-marathon winner lost 16 kilos during the challenge, as he battled through gastro problems, viral fever and blisters
  • He ensured he had filling meals, but followed a strictly vegetarian diet
  • Filmmakers Vandana and Vikram Bhatti are making a documentary called ‘The Faith Runner’ on his monumental effort

 

Tried and tested

An electronics engineering professional and an ultra marathoner himself, Kazmi started 100 Days of Running in 2015, with a handful of participants, to encourage people to make running a part of their lives. Into its third edition, the event, held from April 29 to August 6, witnessed a tremendous rise in participation  – from only the organisers’ immediate social circles in the first season to 12,000 registrations across 500-plus cities this year.

“I think people have really warmed up to 100DOR, because of its achievable targets. In case of a marathon, you have to straightaway jump into the 10k territory, but what we ask people to do is run a minimum of 2km every day, which is far more manageable than the prospect of running marathon distances at a stretch,” said the Comrades Marathon participant. Kazmi also calls the event a more inclusive affair, with female participation forming no less than 30 per cent of the overall number, against the 10 per cent at other major running events. In fact, even children, barely in their teens, successfully took part in the latest iteration of 100 Days of Running, including the organiser’s own daughter. The fact that there are no prizes upon the completion of the campaign makes it even more remarkable.

“I’d been running for the past 7-8 years, but there was no improvement because the Delhi summer heat would take a toll on me, and my runs would become erratic. So I decided to take up the 100-day challenge four summers back, and its successful completion meant I excelled in all the marathons later that year. It didn’t take too long for the others to reap the benefits of this method, and it soon turned into what it is today,” said the Dehardun-born Kazmi, who has completed every edition of the Delhi Half Marathon since its inception.

Data tracking

There is no hard implementation in this rather FYI situation when it comes to validation of data, according to Tanvir. That’s because most participants don’t own watches with GPS trackers. “They can pair data with our website through whatever app they are using to monitor and collect their personal stats – Strava, Runkeeper etc. We do have a 7-day rule, beyond which you cannot put data, for a sanity check of sorts,” he said. Moving forward, the organisers are now looking at tools through which people can painlessly integrate their Strava data on the 100DOR website automatically. Another likely possibility is the development of their own app, for standardisation purposes.

Anyone and everyone

Another noteworthy aspect of the project was the community building and related personal success stories that have accompanied it. During a recent conversation with PR Pundit consultant Shaida Sharma, she too mentioned being a part of the 100 Days of Running challenge. When I expressed interest, she shared her transformational journey, in terms of both fitness and lifestyle. “Be it being in Goa or on flights, all I was worried about during these past days was to complete my 2km run every day,” she confessed, and introduced me to various other tales from participants belonging to all walks of life. The challenge and the people around it have inspired me enough to head out for a run right away, and maybe it’s even done enough for you to take that first step in your respective thousand mile journeys.

100 Day Transformations

“(Before 100 Days of Running) I was sure there is no way I can leave everything behind and go for runs every single day for 100 days. I have no time, energy, place or support; and I won’t be able to answer the unasked questions while stepping out of home to go out and run. However, something took over, my friends encouraged me and I took this challenge as an opportunity to revive my own faith in myself, that I can do things my own way, for me, which I think are correct, even if no one approves. And, here I am. All it has taken is madness to reach the goal and eventually restore that belief in me, never to lose it again.”

— Swati Gupta, Lucknow (working mother of one)

“100 days of running started the day I was already in Namibia to join my ship. I signed up on the last day, thinking it’ll be interesting to see how long I can manage running while sailing. It’s a lot different than being on land. Timings aren’t really fixed, you have to work 8 hours in a hot engine room daily and then somehow find the will to run your daily 2k. On other days, the ship is in a port, and work is planned at odd hours, so you have to make sure the run doesn’t coincide with work. I’ll admit, there were days when I thought I couldn’t do it any more, but I managed to drag myself to that treadmill in the ship’s gymnasium every single day. I weighed 82 kilos when I joined the ship, and I have lost 9 kilograms. This has been the biggest physical challenge I have taken up, and probably one I’ll remember forever”.

— Arjun Sharma ( in the merchant navy)