VARANASI: Is she going to run? Asked the participants when they saw 102-year-old Kalawati Devi, clad in a white saree with her sports shoes on, ready to sprint.

Neither age nor the post-viral muscle pain could deter the gritty elderly from touching the finishing line of the 100 meters race at the BR Ambedkar Sports Stadium of Lalpur in one go, on the final day of the Sansad Khel competition in Varanasi on Wednesday.
“Daud ke nahin, chal ke pura kaili (could not run, but completed the distance walking),” said Kalawati.
The other athletes in the race were mostly in the 11-18 age group.
The indefatigable centurion took 12.56 minutes to complete the distance.
“Once she started, she did not stop,” said athletic coach Idris Ahmed, adding that no other athlete in the veteran category turned up for the track and field events.
Her participation was acknowledged at the prize distribution ceremony where UP ministers Jaivir Singh, Ravindra Jaiswal and other dignitaries were present.
Kalawati has been an ardent morning walker for the past 13 years.
Her nephew Ashok Kumar Singh, who is associated with many sports bodies, and his wife Asha had noticed Kalawati chanting ‘Khelega India to Khilega India’ slogan, coined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after he laid the foundation of cricket stadium in Varanasi in September this year.
Ashok browsed the KSKP-2023 website and got Kalawati registered in the 60+ (veteran) category athletic event.
Asha said, “Buaji (Kalavati) got married at the age of 10 but separated from her husband a few years later and returned to her parents’ home. She started to manage the agricultural fields owned by the family. When she turned 90, we stopped her from working in the fields and gardens and thereafter she became a regular morning walker.”
Ashok and Asha bought her several pairs of sports shoes.
“She does not seek anyone’s help in routine work and climbs the stairs to the terrace on the third floor at least once every day,” said Asha.
“Last fortnight, she was down with viral fever and experienced muscle pain and we had given up hope for her participation in the event. But once she was capable of moving her feet, she asked us to take her to the track,” said Ashok.
District magistrate S Rajalingam said, “We received 2.76 lakh entries for participation, of whom around 2 lakh participated from the village and zone to district levels for the 27 sports events. Passion for sports among people of the city was to such an extent that a 102-year-old woman was seen on the track.”

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