At 79, Sikh marathon runner still stacking up miles around Auckland's North Shore

Balbir Singh Basra turns 80 next March, and while many of his contemporaries have long since retired from work and strenuous exercise, Balbir piles on the miles around Auckland's North Shore training for his next marathon.

His son Gurdip told First Up when Balbir came to New Zealand, he wasn't a runner, but took up walking to keep fit after a life on farms near Phagwara in India's northern state of Punjab.

"Most mornings he gets up at four o'clock. My business at the moment is about 13km away from home and sometimes he wakes up ... gets ready and before six o'clock he's at the shop. He walks to the shop."

Balbir arrived in New Zealand in 2001 to resettle with his two adult sons and found himself spending half his time with one son who was suffering from multiple sclerosis and the rest helping out at Gurdip's bottle store. The problem was the distance between them.

"He would come with me to my business and then go back walking home because he was a bit restless at the store."

Gurdip said later when the family moved to the North Shore his father was walking quite a bit.

"I come to know some of his friends were doing a marathon, then I encourage him to do marathon with them as well."

He said neither of them knew what a marathon was back in India, and that's where it all started.

Gurdip realised that his dad's daily runs were often far longer than marathons, and at 71 Balbir ran his first Auckland marathon and hasn't missed one since.

"He was walking about 50k every time he went for walk and marathon is only 42.2km - so it was a piece of cake for him."

Gurdip and his family were surprised at how fast his dad was in his first marathon.

"His finish time was four hours and 44 min and would have been a lot quicker if he hadn't stopped for the photo shots."

At nearly 80 years of age, Gurdip said his dad's health was excellent.

Balbir has now completed 13 marathons and he's hoping to finish his 14th in under five hours this Sunday when he runs the Auckland marathon for the eighth time.

"Marathon is actually his life. When he completes one marathon, he's looking forward to the next one."

Balbir Singh Basra, 79, frequently runs around Auckland's North Shore as he trains for his next marathon. Source: RNZ

More From