TORONTO. September 29th. It is not just our professional athletes who are causing excitement this year.
Remarkable and truly inspirational runner, 100 year old Fauja Singh is aiming to become the Guinness World Record Holder for the Oldest Marathoner at this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, October 16th.
Fauja ‘The Turbaned Tornado’ Singh took up running at the ripe old age of 89 and set the current 90+ age-group World Record at STWM in 2003 with a time of 5:40:04 at age 92. He is well known all over the world and trains each day, jogging and walking an average of eight to ten miles. Of his intention to keep running he says,”‘I have said it before that I will carry on running as it is keeping me alive.”
New for 2011, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has officially partnered with Guinness World Records. While runners may not be able to match Fauja’s attempt they are able to register to break Guinness World Records in the following categories: Fastest Mascot, Fastest Vegetable, Fastest Parent and Child and Fastest Television Character. Registration deadline for these records is October 1st and see http://www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com/en/news/2011_07_19.htm for further details.
Fauja Singh One Hundred Years Young
by Paul Gains
On the occasion of his 100th birthday – April 11th of this year – Fauja Singh received a telegram from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 then plotted world centenarian record attempts on distances from 100 metres to the marathon.
It might seem a curious reaction to such a splendid acknowledgement but Singh is hardly a typical British old age pensioner.
At present he holds the world marathon record for men over 90, having recorded 5 hours 40 minutes at the 2003 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. He was 92. The city obviously agrees with him because a year later he set a world record for the half marathon of 2:29:59. There doesn’t appear to be anybody lurking in the wings to challenge these records.
Singh returns to Toronto next month to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon to set a Guinness World Record for the oldest marathoner at 100 years old and will also set records in an assortment of other distances.
All his achievements, including five appearances at the London Marathon, earned him a sponsorship deal with adidas as part of the company’s “Impossible is Nothing” advertising campaign so famously illustrated by one David Beckham.
The centenarian is a full blown celebrity in Britain. His biography ‘Turbaned Tornado’ was launched under auspicious circumstances at the House of Lords and his exploits on the roads have provided inspiration to millions around the world, especially since he took up marathon running at the age of 89. His debut came at the 2000 London Marathon. Chief among his few regrets, he claims, is the fact he is unable to read the book. He speaks Punjabi and cannot read.
“I have always enjoyed sports from an early age and prefer to be active rather than passive,” he says through the able interpretation of his friend, coach and agent Harmander Singh. “Running is free and I can do it at a pace to suit me. The fact that others benefit from something I like to do, be it through raising of sponsorship for charities or simply motivating people to become healthier, is a motivator for me.
“I had run a long race for a cancer charity and became aware of the marathon distance. I felt I ought to give it a go as I knew I could do it.”
Not only will Singh attempt to the first centenarian marathoner but three days before the Toronto event he will have a go at records from 100m to 5000m on a yet to be confirmed Toronto track. As for which distances he will attempt that remains undecided.
“I will discuss whatever I hope to achieve with my coach and will do what my coach advises me as he will not take any unnecessary risks,” Singh explains. “I do know however, that there are race distances which will become world records even if I walk them. I hope that the community training run (morning of Thursday 13 October) that my coach organises with the Race Director will inspire people of all abilities.”
Like all of his running ventures these days he will attempt to raise money for charity. The entire amount of his adidas sponsorship, for instance, went directly to charity.
“My coach is the best person to ask but I know that all charities are for good causes and help the vulnerable in some way – that is good enough reason for me,” he says. “The three I remember are BLISS, Cancer Research and one for older people. I did not like the way they (the latter) treated me when I handed over the money raised.”
The association with BLISS was especially clever as the charity helps parents with premature babies and allowed them to use the advertising tag line “the oldest running for the youngest.”
Fauja Singh himself was born on a farm in a remote part of India on April 11, 1911 and he emigrated to England in the 1990’s. He’s a little foggy on the details.
“I cannot remember for sure but I was simply visiting my children in the 1980’s and eventually [settled] for good in the 1990’s,” he recalls. “I moved to England as a way of overcoming a traumatic time in my life and the family thought it best.”
The trauma he speaks of was the deaths of both his wife and his son Kuldip in close succession. These days he lives with another son Sukhjinder Singh and his family in Ilford, Essex. He trains each day walking, jogging and running between eight and ten miles a day.
According to his biographer, villagers in India recall Singh running to get to and fro, using running as a means of transportation. Decades later he continues to inspire others with his remarkable achievements. Asked if he has ever considered ‘retirement’ he responds succinctly.
“I have said before that I will carry on running as it is keeping me alive,” he declares.