People call me “the Turbaned Tornado” – I’m the oldest marathon runner in the world. Just three weeks after my 101st birthday, I ran the London Marathon in seven hours and 49 minutes. I’ve completed eight other marathons in the past 12 years, including the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, which I ran when I was 100 years old. How do I do it? Simple: firstly, I eat only vegetarian foods – I am told that vegetarians tend to live an average of six to 10 years longer than meat-eaters do. But I also walk or jog every day. Age may bring wisdom, but if you want stamina, endurance and a lifetime of good health, turn to nutritious vegetarian foods.
I hope to inspire others to eat healthful, plant-based meals. I can’t dictate what others eat, but I want to share the benefits of vegetarian eating with everyone who is willing to listen. I’ve been predominantly vegetarian my whole life. In the Sikh religion, we eat to live, not live to eat. In Punjab, the green belt of India where I’m originally from, most people eat what they grow – I attribute my longevity to simple Punjabi vegetarian foods, such as chapati, dal, sabji and saag.
But eating vegetarian food is also part of my training regime. We all need a balanced and wholesome diet. It doesn’t matter how nice to look at or sweet food is – if your body can’t digest it, why eat it? In many parts of the world, people are dying because of starvation, whilst others are dying because of overeating. My solution is just to eat what my body needs. I don’t believe in waste or excessiveness, and I believe that it takes up to 16 pounds of grain just to produce 1 pound of meat, so eating vegetarian foods helps conserve land, water and energy.
I’m a member of the Sikhs in the City running club, and the average age of the elders’ running team is 86. The 10km race of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon is my last long race, but I don’t plan on hanging up my running shoes just yet – the day I stop running will be the day my body stops altogether. I’m still going to jog 5 or 10 kilometers daily for leisure.
One day, I hope to climb the stairs to the top of one of the world’s tallest buildings, the Taipei Tower, which is 101 stories high. One never knows what life will bring, but I am hopeful that my passion for an active lifestyle – and my healthy vegetarian diet – can help propel me to the top. And when I reach my destination, I will be able to say that no animals had to suffer because of my food choices along the way.
Written by Fauja Singh