Kids Corner

Above: In Toronto, after a tiring flight across the Atlantic. Would've been far easier on his body and soul if he could've sprinted across, instead. Photo by Richard Lautens.


Ready For A Slew Of New Records:
Fauja Singh Arrives In Toronto For Marathon




He’s a long-distance runner whose own coach concedes is not as fast as he used to be.

“We’ve learned to pace ourselves a little bit better,” said trainer Harmander Singh.

Then again, Fauja Singh, no relation, was 89 years old when he started competing in races. And now he’s 100.

“I am but a simple man,” Singh the competitor, a Sikh with a long white beard who only speaks Punjabi, said in a translated statement. “I give it my best shot and it happens that the results are better than others.”

The centenarian, who lives in the United Kingdom by way of Punjab, is ready to compete in Sunday’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in an attempt to land a Guinness World Record.

He’s already set three records for men over 90 - one for 10,000 metres, which he completed in 64 minutes in the Lahore Marathon in 2005; and two in Toronto, for a half-marathon in 2004 (2 hours 29 minutes 59 seconds) and a full marathon in 2003 (5 hours 40 minutes 1 second).

Now he wants one more record in his century-old age.

“I always wanted to be the oldest marathon runner and said to myself that if an opportunity presented itself, I will not turn it down,” said Fauja Singh.

He chose Toronto because it is where he had his best showings before. Plus, the people “seem more accommodating of other cultures than some other parts of the world where the Sikh appearance is wrongly prejudged.”

While Fauja Singh is here, he’s hoping to smash - or in his case, due to the lack of competition, simply create - some other records, too.

The 115-pound runner who stands 5-foot-8 is set to compete in eight track races on Thursday beginning at 8:30 a.m. at Scarborough’s Birchmount Stadium.

Fauja Singh wants to raise money for local charities, including Guru Gobind Singh Children’s Foundation, which is run by children and youth to help other kids meet basic needs.

The plan for Sunday is to complete the full 42.2-kilometre race - something he hasn’t done since he was 92.

“I will not want to quit and certainly not in a middle of a race,” said Fauja Singh, who, by the way, cares for a cup of tea about 32 kilometres in.

“I just keep going knowing that every step I take I am getting closer to the finish line - standing around is not going to get me there.”

Let’s just get this out of the way: he doesn’t have a secret. He does exercise daily (a 12- to 16-kilometre run, to be specific), follows a diet of modest proportions (toast, tea, Indian chapati and curry), and maintains a positive outlook for a stress-free life.

His coach says Fauja Singh started running when he needed a “new focus” on life after moving to Britain when his wife and son died about 20 years ago.

But still. 100.

“In the Punjabi language, there is no such word as impossible,” said Singh the trainer.

At an age where having a healthy mind is itself a feat of strength, Singh the competitor is in remarkable - borderline miraculous - physical shape.

His trainer points to a bone density test done last year when the runner was 99. Fauja Singh’s left leg was found to have a density of a 35-year-old; his right leg had that of a 25-year-old.

“His response was, ‘I knew my left leg was weak,’” recalls the coach.

The centenarian runner hasn’t completed a full marathon since 2004. The previous year he had both his best (Toronto) and worst races, which happened at the New York City Marathon. There, the injured 92-year-old completed the race in a gruelling 7 hours and 35 minutes.

After Toronto, Fauja Singh plans on running four shorter races, including ones in Frankfurt and Hong Kong. His 52-year-old trainer, also a runner, hopes the two of them will be among 8,000 torchbearers in the London 2012 Olympics.

As for Sunday, Fauja Singh’s coach has no concrete goals. But he guarantees one thing.

“I’ll make sure he doesn’t exert himself.”

Times to beat

Centenarian Fauja Singh will run in eight races today (Thursday morning). In order to set a record, times to beat are:

100 metres: 29.83 seconds. (“Fauja can beat that,” said his trainer Harmander Singh.)

200 m: 1 minute 17 seconds.

400 m: There is no record.

800 m: There is no record.

1,500 m: There is no record.

1 mile: There is no record.

3,000 m: There is no record.

5,000 m: There is no record. (“He can take it easy and still set a record,” his trainer said.)


[Courtesy: The Toronto Star. Edited for]

October 13, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: Kanwal Prakash Singh (Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A.), October 13, 2011, 8:36 AM.

In Sardar Fauja Singh, we find an exemplary spirit and rare wisdom and an outstanding role model. We are awed by his modesty, courage, sense of humor, splendid personality, abiding faith, and his promise to give generously of himself to life and all that is noble and worthy. His life, spirit, and persona radiate the lessons of his Sikh faith that also find a reaffirming echo in all cultures and sacred traditions. We have every reason to express our unbound joy, pride, and unbridled excitement about Fauja Singh, but this precious "gem" belongs to the entire human race. He personifies all this is, and can be, good, uplifting, and unifying under the heavens about humanity. We will be shouting jaikaras as he competes and excels in various races this week in Toronto: there goes the beloved son of Guru Gobind Singh, a 'lukh hazaari' of the Sikh Nation. And we will be praying for his long life and many more distinguished achievements, and for his continued inspiration to our lives and to the lives of young and old across the universe. Our love, pride, and blessings travel with you, Sardar Fauja Singh ji. Good Running and God Speed!

2: Harinder (Uttar Pradesh, India), October 13, 2011, 10:32 AM.

Let the world call you "The Eternal Runner".

3: Plate (U.S.A.), October 13, 2011, 10:42 AM.

Good luck to S. Fauja singh. I am humbled.

4: R. Singh (Canada), October 13, 2011, 10:51 AM.

S. Fauja Singh represents the exemplary attitude of any person who would be Sikh. No amount of loud, aggressive lectures on appearance can match up to this focus on deeds embarked upon in full chardi kalaa.

5: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), October 13, 2011, 12:00 PM.

Puts most youngsters from 10-80 years of age to shame! A model to all inactive and obese humans everywhere! Running is a religion in itself for the good of the body.

6: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), October 13, 2011, 3:17 PM.

Can someone please take the seva of webcasting THE MAN in motion on Sunday marathon live? Please? If anyone can do it, it is the sangat in Toronto, with multiple Punjabi TV programmings, they have the resources. I am sure thousands around the globe will have their eyes and their hearts glued to those skinny legs and lovely face. I, with each of my heartbeats, will be uttering Waheguru for all the 42.2 kms he so deeply desires to cover. Harmander, please tell him that the sangat from around the world is with him.

7: Jaspreet Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), October 14, 2011, 7:43 PM.

Good article. In response to Gurmeet Kaur ji, there is going to be a live and even recorded coverage of this event shown on the Punjabi channel on your satellite dish. So no matter which part of the world you are in, you can watch it live or get to enjoy the program as a recorded show a few days later on Punjabi channels via your satellite dish. As far as live webcasting is concerned, it hasn't been started here. For your information, there is live webcasting in U.K. to showcase their Punjabi and Sikh channels via the internet but unfortunately the Sikhs of U.S.A. and Canada haven't instituted this service here yet.

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Fauja Singh Arrives In Toronto For Marathon"

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