The 1994 Oscar-winning film Forrest Gump directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Eric Roth starring veteran actor Tom Hanks continues to touch the hearts of viewers even after two decades.
The story of the bullied child with a spine-correcting brace who inspired Elvis’ iconic hip thrust, enrolled in the army, became a successful shrimp entrepreneur, won the American President’s Medal and ran across the country for nearly years, taught us countless things about life.
This iconic film is set to get its Bollywood remake titled Laal Singh Chaddha with actor Aamir Khan essaying Hank’s role.
While we revel at Forrest Gump, here’s the lesser-known story of India’s very own runner.
The Gump in the film ran across the country after a heartbreak, but India’s faith runner ran 13,750 km within seven months and six days to raise funds for the families of martyred soldiers.
“We can’t fight for our country. But we can help the family members of the people who died doing so,” he told the Mumbai Mirror.
The man who began his journey on 5 December 2017, from Punjab’s Wagah, ran south to Kanyakumari, then to Kolkata, all the states of north-east, the Nepal border and finally via the Himalayas, reached Jammu via Srinagar.
He registered with the government’s ‘Bharat Ke Veer’ portal and covered 22 states, battling harsh weathers, biting cold and scorching summers.
His target was to cover 15,000 km, but after seven months, he managed to run a staggering 13,000+ kilometres. He only stopped after facing multiple health issues.
The run that he completed in 2018 broke his previous record of 9,964 kms by 3,500 kilometres. He was funded by Akshay Kumar, also an ambassador for the Bharat Ke Veer project.
Here’s all you need to know about India’s Faith Runner, Samir Singh
Born in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh in 1972, Samir started running long distances at age 35. After setting a target of running 100 km a day for 100 days, he set one of his first records by covering 10,000 km in 100 days in 2017.
According to an NDTV report, after completing the run that was said to be longer than the Great Wall of China (which is 5,500 km) and the distance between Mumbai and London (7,200 km), he missed the 10,000 km mark by 36 km due to health issues.
In the same year, he spent close to three months running between Mumbai’s slums and business districts, living on donated clothes and earning a meagre daily wage of Rs 190.
At the time, he hardly had any sponsors. Two Mumbai documentary filmmakers Vikram Bhatti and Vandana Bhatt supported him by giving him the moniker of ‘The Faith Runner’ and started a Facebook page for him.
It was at the time that he was also compared to Tom Hanks’ ‘Forrest Gump’.
His run for ‘Bharat Ke Veer’ earned him love from across India, and he was felicitated by the Border Security Force, which also helped him with the logistic support.
He won 12-hour Ultra races in Vadodara, Mumbai, where he covered 107 km in 2015 and 121 km in 2016. He moved on to working as a running coach.
In an interview with the Mumbai Mirror, the man concludes how running became an intrinsic part of life.
“It’s God’s plan that I have the ability to run. I have been training for this all my life. I was a farmer from a small village in Madhya Pradesh and would lift 20-kilogram sacks of grain till the next village and then bring it back from the flour mill. Without even realising it, I had prepared my body for this life I’m living.”
We hope he continues to run and gets all the support he requires to carry the noble work forward.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)