Last year my father Rajinder Singh MBE who I named ‘Skipping Sikh’ became a global sensation from starting the skipping challenge in lockdown. He inspired millions of people worldwide.
I nominated him for the London Marathon as I knew this was his lifelong dream and he had never been successful enough to get through. He was also turning 75 in the same month and it’s a difficult time for my father as 35 years ago he lost his father who was strangled in India in 1985
I knew this year he would get selected as it was a charity place and after nominating him it wasn’t long before I heard back, and he was successful. We raised £4,500 for Mencap a charity that supports those with learning disabilities.
As the day drew closer and closer, I was feeling more and more anxious and nervous. It wasn’t that I felt he couldn’t do it, it was more that it’s a huge challenge and his age. My dad also is a very stubborn man, he will not listen to anyone about how to take care of himself as he is tune with his body and knows what works and what doesn’t. My father never follows a full marathon training plan either. He has always been a keen runner and has done lots of marathons with a half marathon being completed in 2 hours 45 minutes at the age of 72. I was just praying that he will be OK.
The morning of the run and we had Addison Lee organise transport for my father, so we travelled safely and closed our eyes on the way, spending the entire journey there in silence. I was praying and just felt so worried. I just wanted my father to take his time and complete it, but I know he will push himself. When we arrived, there was some time before the start, and he had one banana and a black coffee with no sugar. He didn’t carry any gels, energy bars or water. He just took his phone and skipping rope in his pocket.
I remember wishing my father good luck and the feeling of nerves, anxiety, and worry. My mum kept saying “don’t worry he is a tough cookie” We got to be near the start line, and we got to see my dad skipping as a warm-up and then cross the start line. I was shouting ‘dadji’ and cheering him on. I felt so proud to see someone of that age and from the Asian community making a difference.
This year there were 40,000 runners and another 40,000 running virtually, there was an app to track the runners. My dad’s bib number 38021 adding up to my age 41 this month! It was also the 41st marathon this year.
I kept tracking him and could see he was running fast. He did 5k in 35 minutes and 10k in just over an hour. He
was like the cartoon road runner! My stomach felt tight, and I didn’t feel hungry. As a daughter, I just worry about my parents, and I kept thinking how many miles he had to go. My mum and I tried to meet him along the route but it was so busy we didn’t get a chance. The atmosphere was loud, like a big rave in London! Weather was cold, windy, but with sunshine and some rain. All the time in my mind I kept praying I hope my dad is ok.
When we got to the 19-mile mark, I saw my good friend in his 50’s run past and we cheered him on, but he looked knackered, and this panicked me thinking is my father going to be ok if my friend looks like this! Then we finally saw my father coming along, he looked fresh, holding a small bottle of water, cleaning up the streets so runners don’t trip up on water bottles. He was more concerned about others than himself. We asked do you want a banana, energy sweets or even raisins and he just put his hands together and said he’s ok.
My father at this point just gave me the reassurance that he is made of steel, he has energy like no other.
We got to the end, and we waited to see him, but we couldn’t get to the finishing line. We tracked him on the app and he completed the marathon in 6 hours 52 minutes, which is an amazing time for someone of his age who hardly trained and didn’t eat much!
That feeling of cheering my father at the end when he came past the finishing line was just amazing, he done it,
he looked like he had just been for a walk in the park. He said this was one of the hardest things he had to do, and he never thought he would be able to do it but is now ready for New York Marathon. My father skipped during the marathon and even at the end over the finishing line and no one has done this, he set an example that age is just a number and we can all give it a go, even if we just walk, but being active is the best thing for anyone. He told me how he felt so humbled by people cheering him on and how everyone recognised him as skipping Sikh. My father has achieved such a brilliant accomplishment. I hope to now train for a half marathon and do the New York one with my dad. I was really inspired he recovered the next day and back at the park run on the weekend.
What a legend! My father says his faith carried him through, even when his legs were giving up, he kept on going. He said he was never going to quit, he wanted to test his body at his age.
His message to all is ‘health is wealth, never give up, stay active”