Kids Corner


Fauja Singh:
101 And Running Strong





As he turned a memorable 101-years-old on Sunday, April 1, 2012, Sikh-Brit marathoner Fauja Singh did not have his birthday celebrations on his mind at his London, England  home. Instead, the oldest athlete on earth is busy preparing for his next event - the London Marathon - on April 22.

Getting up early on Sunday at his Ilford-London home, Fauja was on the tracks to run six laps as the ‘Sikhs in the City’ team organised an event in London to run 101 laps of two kilometres each to commemorate his 101st birthday.

Even at 101, what is top-most on his mind is the preparation for the London Marathon for which he is already training, and not his birthday cake.

Merey coach ne mainu dovara jinda kar ditta hai (my coach has given me a fresh lease on life),” Fauja Singh once told his Chandigarh-based biographer, Khushwant Singh.  The biography, Turbaned Tornado, was released at the Atlee Room of the House of Lords in London in July last year.

A man who spews wisdom everytime he opens his mouth, he converses only in Punjabi. Fauja says he wished he could have  read the book, but it has been published only in English.

As Fauja Singh prepares for the London marathon, no insurance company in Britain is ready to issue him a policy for the event.

“No company here is ready to insure him. We are willing to accept insurance even from India from anyone who has the confidence in Fauja’s ability,” Fauja’s coach Harmandar Singh said.

“Recently, when I spoke to him, he was not sure on whether he should run the full or half marathon. He asked me for suggestions and then he said, ‘jey marna hi hai taan poori da lambha le ke maraan’ (If I have to die then I should be blamed for running the full marathon.”

There is only one regret in the mind of his biographer. “He is the embodiment of Sikh virility. He has shown the true genes of the Sikhs as a tough race. But the state (Punjab) of his birth has not come forward to honour his achievements. It’s a sad reflection of our priorities.”

Fauja has rubbed shoulders with the likes of football star David Beckham and other sporting celebrities as brand ambassador and poster-boy of leading footwear company Adidas for their international campaign. Billboards featuring him were, not too long ago, prominently displayed on busy London streets.

Last year, when he turned 100, Fauja received a congratulatory telegram from Queen Elizabeth.

Even at 101, Fauja does not want to give up his latest love - running. "Latest", because it came late in life, when he was 89! 

Born April 1, 1911, at Beas Pind in Punjab’s Jalandhar district, 170 km from the state's capital, Chandigarh, age has not been a barrier for him. Having become the world’s oldest half marathon runner at 99 years of age in May 2010 when he ran the Inter-Faith Marathon in Luxembourg, Fauja (whose name literally means a 'soldier'), is a one-man army who wants to keep running till he drops.

“I won’t stop running till I die. I want to be remembered as the person who ran till the end,” Fauja, who has been living in London for the last nearly 16 years, said recently.

The death of his son Kuldip and earlier of his wife, forced Fauja to search for a worthwhile alternative in life. At 89 years, he took seriously to running and ended up in international marathon events like the London, Glasgow and Toronto ones.

“When he first turned up for training at Redbridge-Essex with Harmandar, he was dressed in a three-piece suit. The coach had to rework everything, including his dress,” says his biographer.

Fauja ran his first race, the London Marathon, in 2000. Before that, his early memory of being a runner was, at best, limited to participating in village sporting competitions before World War II.

He was well-known in his village for running “from one place to another”, old-timers in his village recount.


April 2, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Satvir Kaur (Boston, MA, U.S.A.), April 02, 2012, 10:33 AM.

Happy birthday, Sardar Fauja Singh ji! May you long continue to be the torch bearer for Sikhs around the world.

2: Pritam Singh Grewal (Canada), April 02, 2012, 11:08 AM.

All hail Fauja Singh - the Soldier Lion! He has brought well-deserved glory to the Sikh seniors of the world. May he go on running for years to come!

3: Dr..Karnail Singh (Bidston, Wirral, United Kingdom), April 02, 2012, 3:55 PM.

Dear Fauja Singh ji: Many happy returns on your birthday from all in the U.K. How wonderful you look in your saffron dastaar! You are an inspiration to us all! Thank you.

4: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), April 02, 2012, 7:08 PM.

A beacon unto himself and chardi kalaa personified. His record shall continue to inspire and remain unbeaten for centuries to come. S. Fauja Singh ji, you have Guru's Hand on your head, and yet remain utterly humble. "kaho naanak sabh tayree vadi-aa-ee koe-ee naa-o na jaanai mayra" [GGS:383.12] - 'Says Nanak, this is all Your greatness; no one even knows my name.'

5: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), April 02, 2012, 8:14 PM.

Many happy returns to the world's only real SuperMan! ... Our Super Singh!

6: Harinder (Uttar Pradesh, India), April 03, 2012, 9:53 AM.

Balle balle Sardar ji. Do a double marathon next year and live till the ripe age of 200 years!

7: Surinder Singh (Ludhiana, Punjab), January 08, 2013, 10:29 AM.

You are every Sikh's pride, Sardar Fauja Singh ji. Keep it up, and many many wishes for your good health!

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101 And Running Strong"

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