TORONTO — Fauja Singh secured a spot in the Guiness World Book of Records on Sunday at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
The 100-year-old accomplished an amazing feat, completing the gruelling 42.195-kilometre marathon and becoming the oldest person ever to complete a full-distance marathon. It took Singh over eight hours to cross the finish line — more than six hours after Kenya’s Kenneth Mungara won the event for the fourth straight year — and he was the last competitor to complete the course. But his time wasn’t nearly remarkable as the accomplishment itself.
“Beating his original prediction, he’s overjoyed,” said coach and translator Harmander Singh.
“Earlier, just before we came around the (final) corner, he said, ‘Achieving this will be like getting married again.’
“He’s absolutely overjoyed, he’s achieved his life-long wish.”
Although event workers dismantled the barricades along the finish line and took down sponsor banners even as Fauja Singh made his way up the final few hundred metres of the race, a throng of media, family, friends and supporters were there when Fauja Singh made marathon history.
And Fauja Singh, who only speaks Punjabi, also surprised himself. Through his interpreter, he said he had set a goal of finishing the race in about nine hours.
“He said he achieved this through the help of God but even God must be getting fed up of helping him,” Harmander Singh said, drawing chuckles from assembled media after the race.
Sunday’s run was Fauja Singh’s eighth marathon — he ran his first at the tender age of 89 — and wasn’t the first time he set a record. In the 2003 Toronto event, he set the mark in the 90-plus category, finishing the race in five hours 40 minutes and one second.
And on Thursday in Toronto, Fauja Singh — whose first name means soldier — broke world records for runners older than 100 in eight different distances ranging from 100 metres to 5,000 metres.
Fauja Singh, a five-foot-eight, 115-pound British citizen and vegetarian, looked tired and spent following the race and organizers gingerly assisted him to the post-event news conference. After receiving gentle massages to his legs and calf muscles as well as cups of water from members of his entourage, Singh leaned back on a couch and spoke little to start the news conference.
But a short time into it, he began looking remarkably relaxed and fresh with his hands clasped behind his head.
Then, he abruptly sat up straight and with a smile, motioned for the microphone, obviously getting his second wind.
“He says he’s recovered now so he’s going to talk,” his translator said, again drawing laughter.
Fauja Singh, affectionately dubbed the Turbaned Tornado, began running roughly 20 years ago after losing his wife and child. The five-foot-eight centenarian said he’s happy to see more minorities taking part in such marathon events and is hopeful his next project will be participating in the torch relay for the 2012 London Summer Games.
Fauja Singh carried the torch during the relay for the 2004 Athens Games.
Race director Alan Brookes struggled to find the right words to describe Fauja Singh’s remarkable accomplishment.
“I’m speechless,” he said. “Fauja Singh is a remarkable human being.”