Dattatrey Balse, one of the oldest participants, revealed the secret of his longevity: washing clothes, abstinence from alcohol and tobacco
Unless you ask him, it's difficult to guess Dattatrey Krishna Balse's age. He was one of the eldest participants at the ninth edition of the Mumbai Marathon. For the record, Balse is 99 and was among the 1,251 participants in the Senior Citizens' Run category who showed the world that age is just a number.

Fighting fit: With just months away from turning 100, Dattatrey Krishna
Balse participated in his fourth Mumbai Marathon. Pic/Atul Kamble

This is the fourth marathon for the Grant Road resident, who will become a centenarian on April 10. Ask him the secret to his long life and pat comes the reply. "One of the secrets of my longevity is my sense of discipline. I kept away from alcohol and tobacco. I started going for morning walks in the year 1942 and have continued it ever since. Even today, I religiously go to Marine Drive with my son Vinay and walk about 4 km a day. The only time when I skip the regime is when it's raining or on the days when I'm a little unwell."

Every year, Balse looks forward to the marathon due to another special connection -- his former employers, Lloyd's Bank, later rechristened Standard Chartered, are the title sponsors of the event. "I worked for the bank for almost three decades and I take pride in participating in the marathon as it feels like coming home. Post-retirement, I worked as an officer on special duty with the Corporation Bank for 13 years and then joined a diamond export firm. It was at the insistence of my wife and children that I called it a day at the age of 88," added Balse, who is an avid cricket fan. Being an ardent admirer of the gentleman's game, Balse is eagerly awaiting Sachin Tendulkar's 100th ton. "I feel sad the way India is performing in Australia. But yes, I follow cricket religiously and feel dejected when Sachin doesn't perform. However, I look to live and see Sachin reach the milestone," he added.

When questioned about his favourite pastime, he bowled a googly -- washing clothes. "Right till the age of 90, I used to wash clothes. This is what I have enjoyed doing for over 60 years. However, of late, after I had a bout of pneumonia, I have stopped doing that."

 "I was deeply hurt after I was unable to participate in the last edition of the marathon as I was diagnosed with high blood sugar, and wasn't sure if I would make it. But I'm glad I lived to participate and finish yet another marathon," concluded Balse with a radiant smile.