As the years flew by the same way runners passed me on a marathon course, I’d latch onto aging athletes who still performed on a professional level as proof that I still had time left to compete. My list included legends George Blanda, Pete Rose, Chris Chelios and Gordy Howe, who holds the distinction of playing in the punishing NHL in five different decades (1940-1980). I figured that I still had plenty of years remaining on the race circuit if those guys were still playing professionally at their age.
Then, one morning I woke up to find all of my idols had retired. Suddenly, I was older than anyone playing a major professional sport—that is, until yesterday. On Sunday, October 16, 2011, Fauja ‘The Turbaned Tornado” Singh, age 100, entered the Guinness Book of World Records by finishing the Toronto Waterfront Marathon and becoming the oldest person ever to finish a marathon.
Fauja began running when he was 89 years-old after he lost his wife and child. It was also the year he ran his first marathon. He holds the current 90+ age-group marathon record set in Toronto in 2003 with a 5:40:04 finishing time. He trains each day, either jogging or walking eight to ten miles and says, “I have said it before that I will carry on running as it is keeping me alive.”
He crossed the finish line in eight hours, beating his own goal to finish in nine. It was a remarkable feat that made marathon history; and one that may never be broken.
Fauja is a five-foot-eight, 115-pound British citizen and vegetarian. He carried the torch during the relay in the 2004 Athens Games and is looking ahead to his next project—participating in the torch relay for the 2012 London Summer Games.
I no longer have the need to look for inspiration. If I ever get the urge to skip a planned run, or not enter a race, I’ll just think of the 100 year-old Fauja.