Kids Corner


A Run For Their Money




A focus on physical fitness might be viewed a recent awakening in the United States - with schools replacing Bake Sales with Walk-a-Thons and offices seeing more juice machines than pop machines - but the Sikh Gurus emphasized physical
health alongside spiritual and mental health ever since the 15th century.

While the amazingly long journeys of the first Sikh Guru evidenced his stamina and strength, the second Nanak, Guru Angad, in fact specifically taught the importance of physical fitness. He encouraged daily physical exercise along with the daily nitnem and promoted wrestling competitions both to advance physical prowess and build camaraderie amongst the new Sikhs, hailing from various castes, religions and backgrounds, who otherwise would never have interacted.

Sikhs are required to be ‘saint-soldiers,’ who promote ‘sarbat da bhalla,’ the well-being of all humanity. And Sikhs today are exhibiting physical fitness to do good. They are striding with Sikh pride, and for a cause: marathons to raise funds for social change.

Parvin Singh, a software engineer in the Bay Area, California, has signed up for the October 2 endurance race with the American Cancer Society. What motivates him to forsake social outings for long runs and taping sore feet?

“Well, I believe in the work done by the American Cancer Society … and I truly think that every mile I conquer throughout these next few months of training will create a world with less cancer and more birthdays,” explains Parvin. His love for running runs deep.

“Being a Sikh, a student of the Guru, you have to keep alert. And good health is key to that. Running is an obvious choice for me … I get the workout while exploring new tracks and trails. My neighbors are now used to seeing the guy with the curly beard and bandana or turban running around, at all odd hours!”

Anjit Kaur Anand, a Director at KPMG, is running the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Sur Half Marathon on 20 November, 2011. The marathon is a win-win in her mind: “I’m improving the quality of my life by participating and hope I can help improve the quality of life for patients and their families as well.”

Though Anjit has worked out “on and off since high school,” practicing boxing, yoga, weight training, and aerobics, this is her first long endurance race. “I have endeavored running in the past but training too quickly prevented me from excelling. I didn’t think I would pick it back up again but decided to when I learned about Team in Training, the leading global endurance charity organization.”

The organization provides a motivating and effective training program and Anjit feels that “there is a true sense of camaraderie and no person, fast or slow, is left behind.”

Simran Singh is taking time out from his rigorous academic work as a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, to also run for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, but in New York City on November 6. Simran explains that “a few close friends were recently affected by cancer, and in fact, I'm running the New York Marathon in their honor and memory.”

He remains motivated in his trainings mostly because of the cause for which he is running. “A lot of my teammates are survivors of cancer, and before every team run, someone speaks to the group about why they decided to run the marathon. Everyone’s story is so humbling and inspirational! I guess at the end of the day, I hope that this tiny commitment will help me towards accomplishing the Guru’s mission of developing myself while serving others.”

Simran has always been active in sports and shares: “My relationship with Sikhi actually serves as the foundation for my training … I really believe that it's important for us to live up to the Guru's message of living a balanced life. Since our Gurus lived a healthy, disciplined, and active lifestyle, its important for us, as a community, to take better care of our health!”

And in a community training effort, Sikhs across the country are signing up for the Sikh Coalition’s “5K for the 5Ks” walk-a-thon on 17 September, 2011. The largest and fastest growing Sikh civil rights organization in the U.S., the Sikh Coalition provides legal services, advocates for policy changes, and promotes diversity and civic engagement.

This time, Sikhs are encouraged to engage by bringing families and friends and walking 5Ks in support of religious freedom, which for Sikhs includes wearing their five characteristic articles of faith (the 5Ks). The Sikh Coalition’s first walk-a-thon will perhaps prove to be the trailblazer for a new trend: where donors do not buy tables at banquets with expensive and greasy food, but opt for sweatpants and join and support long walks and races.

‘Thons provide a unique opportunity for us to support an individual, the cause for which they are running, and the Sikh identity. Every Sikh who participates in such a race, wearing her or his identity, helps create awareness about the faith and its tradition of service.

“Fauja Singh is my hero … and he is not just the best face for Adidas, but also for the entire community,” shares Parvin. Fauja Singh, the 100-year-old record-holding Sikh marathon runner, is indeed the shining example of fitness and perseverance.

Parvin’s personal aim, outside of completing his marathon in October? “Organizing a Sikh Marathon, at the scale of the Boston, Chicago or NYC marathons. But first, I am looking for Fauja Singh’s contact information ... I really want to meet the legend!”

Simran is familiar with sports facilitating awareness around the Sikh identify. “My younger brother. Darsh, was the first Sardar to play basketball for the NCAA. I grew up in a family of four brothers and we’ve been competing in sports since we were kids.”

Simran also believes the marathon training promotes his own spiritual, besides physical, growth: “Of course it’s physically taxing to run 26 miles at a time, but I’d say the most challenging part of training for a marathon is the mental discipline entailed. Distance running is great for conditioning the mind … it's a constant challenge to push yourself to the limits, and this challenge takes serious commitment. In fact, it’s really rewarding to see how the mental discipline required for running marathons translates into discipline in other aspects of life.”

Besides strenuous training to participate in the marathon, each marathon runner/ walker is responsible for raising a certain amount of money in order to participate in the marathon. Yes, one pays to sweat! The idea is that the excitement around the participant’s commitment and training will help attract donors. It is up to each of us to make this idea a reality. While we may not be ready to train for an endurance event (just yet!), we can participate.

The Sikh tradition of dasvandh, ‘one-tenth part,’ asks that we make a habit of always donating one-tenth of our earnings ... as well as time and resources - towards the common use and good. Going back to at least the third guru, Guru Amar Das, Sikhs have adhered to this tradition.


Now you can take a minute and donate your dasvandh to show support by CLICKING here.

Also, those who wish to support the individual runners and their respective causes:

Parvin Singh - CLICK HERE

Anjit Kaur - CLICK HERE

Simran Singh - CLICK HERE



August 30, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: Inni Kaur (Fairfield, CT, U.S.A.), August 30, 2011, 11:04 AM.

In July 2006, I participated in a marathon at Central Park, New York City, which celebrated "Women over 40". It was a wonderful experience. I will be at the 5K Sikh Coalition run. Won't you join me?

2: Neha (San Carlos, California, U.S.A.), August 30, 2011, 3:58 PM.

Looking forward to seeing the next generation of Sikhs follow the Gurus' example at the Sikh Coalition 5K in September. What a wonderful way to commemorate 10 years of hard-won recognition for our community after 9/11!

3: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), August 30, 2011, 7:36 PM.

Running ... the ultimate exercise, beyond religion and politics, especially for strengthening the heart, which is a muscular pump and works every single second 24/7 for an entire lifetime! Far better than the yoga being sold by Indian 'godmen'.. Not too difficult to perform and not much instruction involved in running.

4: Nina C. (New York City, U.S.A.), August 30, 2011, 10:25 PM.

This is even more important in light of today's global health crisis and rise in racism/ xenophobia, all of which have infiltrated our community. I believe that epidemic levels of obesity, diabetes (diabesity!), heart disease, etc. have risen alongside an alarming rise in hate in the form of racism and xenophobia. Self hate, hate turned against the self, often prevents the positive self-care that leads to good health and is sister to the hate projected onto the world in the form of racism and xenophobia. Here's to the spread of the Sikh Coalition's 5K and Guru's vision of equality and consciousness across the globe!

5: Parvin Singh Panesar (Santa Clara, California, U.S.A.), August 31, 2011, 2:23 AM.

Whether you are a novice, or an elite, you are a runner once you are running on a trail. Running does not need any license, does not need any gear, does not need any space ... And its free ...

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