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Thursday, June 04, 2020

Sikh grandpa takes up 500-mile garden run to raise funds for UK health workers

Singh was inspired by 100-year-old Captain Tom Moore, who raised more than 37 million dollars for NHS by walking laps of his garden and asking people to donate.

Written by Nitin Sharma | Chandigarh | Updated: May 13, 2020 12:05:57 am
Singh, who has so far completed 161 marathons including Toronto, New York and London Marathon over the last 36 years, had started a 500-mile run challenge on May 1.

For the last 12 days, 60-year-old Harmander Singh, who is also one of the coaches of world’s oldest marathoner Fauja Singh, has been running 18 miles daily in his 45-metre long backyard at his Wellesley Road home in east London’s Ilford town.

Singh, who has so far completed 161 marathons including Toronto, New York and London Marathon over the last 36 years, had started a 500-mile run challenge on May 1 to raise funds for the National Health Service (NHS) and towards building Fauja Singh Clubhouse in the east London town.

England has till date recorded more than 2,20,000 COVID-19 cases, out of which 18,000 are in London. Racing to raise funds against a swelling pandemic, Singh has so far raised over 1,000 pounds. To start with, he hopes to gather enough funds to buy a fully equipped paramedic bike, which costs 6,000 pounds, for the NHS.

Singh was inspired by 100-year-old Captain Tom Moore, who raised more than 37 million dollars for NHS by walking laps of his garden and asking people to donate.

The marathon runner used to be a 1500-metre and later 10,000-metre athlete during his school days.

“When one sees what Captain Tom Moore has done for NHS, one gets inspired and it brought back memories of running an actual marathon for me. In April, when I started the Garden Marathon on the day the London Marathon was supposed to happen, I thought about the idea to raise funds for NHS and the planned clubhouse to be named after Fauja Singh at Ilford. I made a timetable and decided to run 18 miles daily in my home garden to complete the 500-mile run. Having run four marathons in a week at my home garden earlier in April did help me. The only difficult part is to complete the daily run while my grandchildren — five-year-old Ashleen and three-year-old Harvir – are sleeping. Otherwise, they are eager to join me. So, I decided to do the run early mornings and late at night,” shared Singh.

The 60-year-old, whose father belonged to Bir Rouke village in Moga district in Punjab, grew up in Singapore where his parents worked before moving to England. The marathon runner used to be a 1500-metre and later 10,000-metre athlete during his school days. He also trained under coach and 1956 Melbourne Olympics silver medallist John Salisbury at Loxford High School.

It was in 1984 that Singh ran his first marathon at Glasgow. Next year, he completed the London Marathon — a record he has maintained since the last 35 years.

The last three decades have seen Singh running in a total of 161 marathons including Tokyo, New York, Boston, Toronto, London and Chicago making him one of over 5000 persons in the world to run in all the six marathons. The founder of ‘Sikhs in the City Running Club’, he was also supposed to run in this year’s London Marathon on April 26 before it was cancelled. “I ran in the Toronto Marathon in October last year and was eagerly looking forward to running in the London Marathon. We have more than 75 members in our running club and running in marathons has been an important part of our lives for the last three decades. Due to COVID-19, the London Marathon was cancelled as no sporting events are being held. So, I decided to run four marathons in a week at my home garden starting April 7 till April 14. While I completed marathons in less than five hours, it took me more than six hours to complete each marathon at home. As the garden is small, I had to be prepared with putting water bottles at different spots in the garden apart from setting alarms on my watch. I also recited path to motivate myself during running. I was the first one to complete the Garden Marathon in London on April 26 as I started the run at midnight,” said Singh, who worked in corporate strategy and policy making in local and central government.

While his wife Mukhtair Kaur works at a local care centre for the elderly, both his sons are police officers and the family is following all the rules and precautions. The England government relaxed some of the rules on Monday and PM Boris Johnson announced that people can play sports but with only members of their own household.

Last month, Amrik Singh, also a coach of Fauja Singh, had died due to COVID-19. “Losing Amrik Singh ji was a sad moment for all running community. I talked with Fauja Singh ji earlier this month and I also told him the initiative to raise funds for NHS and the clubhouse. I understand the need to remain indoors and I also tell other runners to follow the government rules and take precautions. Even with the new relaxations, we need to maintain social distancing,” said Singh.

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