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Indian ‘Faith Runner’ falters on final straight

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Indian runner Samir Singh, tormented by blisters and fractures, rests his feet during a run in Mumbai. AFP

MUMBAI (AFP) – Tormented by blisters, illness and injuries, Indian ultra-marathoner Samir Singh got to within 36 kilometres of his goal of running 10,000km in 100 days when pain and exhaustion beat him.

Singh, dubbed “The Faith Runner” and inevitably compared to Forrest Gump, spent nearly three months running between Mumbai’s slums and business district using donated clothes and equipment, and living on just $3 a day.

At the end of his attempt on Sunday, the 5ft 7ins  running coach, who also suffered stomach problems and viral fever, weighed just 40 kilogrammes (88 pounds).

Singh started on April 29 in Mumbai’s scorching heat, and has been running through the monsoon rains without skipping a day. He needed to clock 150km (93 miles) on the final day on Sunday, after falling behind schedule through illness.

But the 44-year-old could only complete 114km, falling agonisingly short of his target – which was the equivalent of about a quarter of the Earth’s circumference.

“He was plagued by gastro-intestinal infections and contracted viral fever but has run 9,964.19 kms in 100 days,” Vikram Bhatti, who handled Singh’s campaign, said.

Dressed in a blue sports vest, Singh started each day in the early hours from the northern Mumbai slums and headed to the business district in the city’s south.

“My journey of running 100 kilometres per day is very challenging but I wanted to show the endurance limit of human spirit,” Singh said ahead of the final run.

Friends mocked the man from Madhya Pradesh state for taking on the challenge, but it became an attempt that caught the public imagination.

“I survived without a job for the last nine months and people have come forward and supported me with donations, shoes, clothes and equipment,” Singh said.

He had a GPS watch, a basic mobile phone for emergencies and 200 rupees ($3.14) a day. Singh said he particularly enjoyed his meal of rice and spicy lentils, after every run.

The five-time ultra-marathon winner lost 16 kilos (35 pounds) during the challenge as his exertions took their toll.

“I have focused on my goals with determination and nurtured my dreams despite cracked heels, fractured joints and legs,” Singh said.

Singh was spotted one day by Mumbai documentary-makers Vandana and Vikram Bhatti, who christened him ‘The Faith Runner’.

“We met him on the 47th day of his challenge and were taken aback by his story. So, we have been running a Facebook campaign to create awareness and generate funds for Samir,” Vandana Bhatti said.

Fans joined him for several stretches of his run each day.

Singh’s run was longer than the Great Wall of China (5,500km) and further than the distance from Mumbai to London (7,200km).

He went to a temple to pray on Monday, giving up a plan to complete the last 36km.

Singh said he will now rest, and then starting mapping out a new challenge – this time over 40,000 kilometres.

“I have not met my mother for a while as she would be heartbroken looking at my sunken face. But I am happy so many people are invested in my story right now,” Singh said.

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