Today, Baba Fauja Singh who is the oldest Marathon runner in world history turned 104 years of age.
Fauja Singh was born in Beas Pind, Jalandhar, Punjab, British India on 1 April 1911, the youngest of four children. Fauja did not develop the ability to walk until he was five years old. His legs were thin and weak, and he could hardly walk long distances. Because of this, he was often teased, and had to carry the nickname “danda” for the next ten years. As a young man, Fauja was an avid amateur runner, but he gave it up at the time of the 1947 India-Pakistan Partition.
It was only after witnessing the death of his fifth son, Kuldip, in a construction accident in August 1994, that Fauja returned to his passion for running, in 1995. The deaths of his wife in 1992, and his eldest daughter who had died from complications after giving birth to his third granddaughter, gave him the determination for this new focus in life. He emigrated to England in the 1990s and lives with one of his sons in Ilford.
At 89 years, he took seriously to running and ended up in international marathon events. When he first turned up for training at Redbridge, Essex, he was dressed in a three-piece suit. The coach had to rework everything, including his attire. Singh ran his first race, the London Marathon, in 2000. According to his coach, he used to run up to 20 kilometres easily and wanted to run a marathon, thinking it to be just 26 kilometres and not 26 miles (42 kilometres). It was after he realised this that he began training seriously.
Singh shot to fame when, at the age of 93, he completed the 26.2 mile distance in 6 hours and 54 minutes. This knocked 58 minutes off the previous world best for anyone in the 90-plus age bracket.
Singh is 172 cm (5 ft 8 in) tall and weighs 52 kg (115 lb). He attributes his physical fitness and longevity to abstaining from smoking and alcohol and to following a simple vegetarian diet. He has been quoted as saying “I am very careful about different foods. My diet is simple phulka, dal, green vegetables, yogurt and milk. I do not touch parathas, pakoras, rice or any other fried food. I take lots of water and tea with ginger. … I go to bed early taking the name of my Rabba (God) as I don’t want all those negative thoughts crossing my mind.”
Speaking about the marathon, he said: “The first 20 miles are not difficult. As for last six miles, I run while talking to God.”