#RespectYourElders: If you want to be a gold medal-winning athlete, track and field runner Man Kaur proves you don’t have to begin training as a young adult. Kaur (born 1916) didn’t start training until her 90s, and today, she holds a world record in her age group.
Kaur grew up in Patiala, India. In the early 1930s, she began working for one of the queens of the Maharaja of Patiala, the ruler of the state at the time. She got married in 1934, became a mother to three children and later worked as a cook.
It was only in 2009 that Kaur first found an interest in running. Her son, Gurdev Singh, urged her take up track and field. Now, he’s her coach and head cheerleader.
“She was very well, with no health problems, and she moved so fast,” Singh told NPR. “So I took her to the university track with me and asked her to run 400 meters. She did, it, slowly, and I thought, ‘Yes, she can do it.’”
To set and defend world records at 101, Kaur commits to a healthy lifestyle. Kaur told NPR she wakes up at 4 a.m. every day and often eats lentils, vegetables and tea for breakfast. Around 7 a.m., she goes to the Gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs. Then, she heads to the track for an hour of sprinting practice. Her practice schedule switches between 20-meter, 30-meter and 40-meter sprints, and 100-meter and 200-meter runs. She even practices shot put and javelin three days a week.
Her hard work has paid off. Since she began training, Kaur has participated in races across the world, from Malaysia, to New Zealand to Singapore. Over the last nine years, she’s won 18 gold medals. Most recently, she won a gold medal at the American Master Games in Canada for her 81-second 100-meter dash last year. Her times are getting better, too. She recently cut her 100-meter dash time from 79-second to 70 seconds.
But Kaur and her son don’t run for only the medals and fame. They simply love the sport and inspiring others.
“It is for our health and at this age, we are winning medals, so people also get inspired,” Singh told NPR.
Kaur’s commitment to running throughout life has inspired people of all ages, both runners and non-athletes alike. One fellow runner who met Kaur in 2017 said, “She’s an inspiration and I’m so happy to have met her.”
Kaur has big aspirations for 2018. She’s training for the Asia Pacific Master Games in September and also plans to run at the World Master Athletic Championships in Spain.
While her journey has been unexpected, Kaur suggests that’s what makes life most interesting. “What you ask for, you never get. It’s better to accept your blessings as they come.”