The Oldest Marathon Runner

Sugar cane press at work in India in 1905, a few years before the birth of the oldest marathon runner, who was born into farming in Punjab in 1911.
Sugar cane press at work in India in 1905, a few years before the birth of the oldest marathon runner, who was born into farming in Punjab in 1911. | Source

Fauja Singh

The oldest marathon runner was 101 years old in 2013 when he retired from running all but charity events. Turning 102 on Easter Monday/April 1, 2013, Fauja Singh gave health reasons for his retirement. He felt that he was losing too much weight in his advancing age while running long-distance events. Hence, his last competitive race was a 10K run in Hong Kong. He was injured and bleeding in a fall during the race, but was able to compete it.

Singh was well enough to inaugurate the 26th Australian Sikh Games beginning March 29 and spectoators and competitors were all glad to see him. On March 30, he ran in a related short race to benefit children. Overall, he successfully completed nine competitive marathons in London, NYC, and Toronto.

Singh used to be a farmer in Punjab and delayed rthe start of his running until age 89. His last race in Hong King occurred on February 24, 2013. This milestone gave him 12 years of competitive long distance running within the age segment termed by the medical profession as "the oldest old." His time for this last run, a 10K (6.2 miles) was 1 hr 32 min 28 sec.

Fauja Singh: Some Masters Class World Records

Event
Time
Other
Age Bracket 90+, Marathon
6 hours and 54 minutes; bested previous record by 58 minutes
London Marathon 2000
Age Bracket 90+, Marathon
5 hours 40 minutes
Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2003
Personal Best, London Marathon
6 hours 2 minutes
London Marathon 2003
Wrold Record, Age Bracket 100+
8 hours 11 minutes 2 seconds
Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2011
Reference: Sikhs In the City, London UK

Running Timeline

Fauja Singh (born in 1911) could not walk until he was five years old, because of a developmental health problem with his legs. However, he began amateur running as soon as he could and always loved running. He had to stop around 1947 to farm full-time in order to support himself and his family.

Farming requires at least a dozen hours of work every day, no matter what part of the world you inhabit, and it leaves little time for running and recreation. This is especially true when there are no machines to help with the work.

Singh continued to farm for most 50 years, stopping only after the deaths of his wife, his eldest daughter and his fifth son. At that point, he decided running would keep him alive as a new life focus and he went to live with another son in England.

His career of running began anew at age 81.

In England, Singh's first UK long distance race was the London Marathon in 2000, when he was 89 years old.

A Long Journey from Punjab to London: Over 5,200 Miles

show route and directions
A markerPUNJAB -
Punjab, India
[get directions]

B markerLondon UK -
London, UK
[get directions]

The Golden Temple of the Sikh in Punjab

Harminder Sahib or The Golden Temple is surrounded by the Sarovar or Sacred Pool in Punjab.The most holy of Sikh places, it is enjoyed by many tourists.
Harminder Sahib or The Golden Temple is surrounded by the Sarovar or Sacred Pool in Punjab.The most holy of Sikh places, it is enjoyed by many tourists. | Source

London 2012: Olympic Torch Bearer

Fauja Singh was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor by the National Ethnic Coalition Organization in November of 2003. He was one of the first non-Americans to be awarded this honor and was called an inspiration of racial tolerance. His run of the NYC Marathon was seen as a step of healing after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.

Sing went on to win additional awards in the UK and to carry the Olympic Torch in the pre-Games relay in the Summer of 2012.

Olympic Torch Run at [0:41]

Australian Sikh Games

  • Sardar Milkha Singh (born in 1935) is called The Flying Sikh and has earned medals in several Olympic Class competitions since winning none at 1956 and the Melbourne Olympics. By 1958, he was winning. Today, he is the official Director of Sports in Punjab. A Hindi language film of his life story will be released in July 2013. I hope to be able to see this filmm with English subtities at our local AMC Dublin Village 18 Theater. The management maintain one or two auditoriums out of the 18 for Indian-language films.

A Punjabi Farm

Source

The largest crop grown in Punjab is wheat, with many others supplementing the economy: barley, cotton, fruits, maize (corn), pearl millet, rice, sugarcane, and additionally, vegetables. Fauja Singh grew some or all of these crops for many years before he finally retired in his older age and began running, as he had in his youth.

Sikhs in the City

Sikhs In the City (SITC) is a group of runners that meet at 6:00 AM every Sunday in order to run together in all sorts of weather. They live in London and were formerly called the North East London Road Running Club.

Fauja Singh helped to found this club in the 1990s. SITC is part of the Sikh Sports Association (SSA) that encompasses all Olympic sports and well prepares Singh to have inaugurated the Australian games, as mentioned earlier. His running has not only highlighted the abilities possible in older age, but also the interesting culture and spirit of the Sikh religion and its followers. In Europe and Asia, at least, he is as famous as America's senior star, Betty White.

Singh and other senior citizens run with SITC and the club enters about two dozen competitive events a year, with male and female runners of all religions on their SITC teams. They have a Yahoo Group and a few Facebook pages.

A New York City Sikhs In the City group for Sikhs and Punjabis have a MeetUp page at http://www.meetup.com/sikhs-43/ It is not a running group, per se, but some members undoubtedly run.


SITC Headquarters and Practice

show route and directions
A marker47 Wellesley Road, Ilford, Essex IG1 4JX -
47 Wellesley Road, Ilford, Greater London IG1 4JX, UK
[get directions]

B markerRoding Lane South and Woodford Bridge Road, London IG4 5PS -
Ilford, Greater London IG4 5PS, UK
[get directions]

Meet Sundays for running 6AM - 9AM.

C markerEast London Gurudwara, London UK -
Ramgarhia Sikh Gurdwara Temple, 10-16 Neville Road, London, Greater London E7 9QX, UK
[get directions]

Hong Kong 10K Run, 2012

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Comments 5 comments

Grace-Wolf-30 profile image

Grace-Wolf-30 3 years ago from England

This man is incredible. A real demonstration of what the human body is capable of when the person is determined.


paiva25 profile image

paiva25 3 years ago from Goa, india

Nice to see a Hub dedicated to him...

Had read an article about him in the newspaper a while back...

The only sad thing is that he isn't being awarded a world record as the oldest marathon runner since he has no proof of his age...


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for the comments!

paiva25 - I agree about the world records with Guinness - they should accept his passport since his country had no birth certificate records in 1911.

Grace - I agree many times over. I hope the rest of his life is joyful.


drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

He may not have received an official Guinness award but he gets my vote, Patty. Amazing!


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 3 years ago from California

Looks like there is still hope for me.

Very nice tribute.

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