Fauja Singh, 101, Retires from Competitive Running

There are amaz­ing feats of ath­leti­cism, and then there is the pro­fes­sion­al run­ning career of Fau­ja Singh. Mr. Singh has com­pet­ed in nine full marathons, as well as a hand­ful of short­er races, since he decid­ed to take up pro­fes­sion­al run­ning in 1994 — when he was 83 years old. Now, at 101, he has decid­ed to retire.

Fauja SinghSingh was born in 1911 in the Pun­jab region of India, which at the time was con­trolled by Great Britain. His legs did not devel­op prop­er­ly, and as a result he was unable to walk until the age of five. This phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tion (and sub­se­quent teas­ing at the hands of his school­mates) inspired young Fau­ja to take up ama­teur run­ning as a youth. How­ev­er, he ulti­mate­ly chose agri­cul­ture as his pro­fes­sion and set­tled on a farm in Pun­jab, where he start­ed a fam­i­ly and lived for the next six decades.

Fol­low­ing the death of his wife in 1995, Singh decid­ed to take up run­ning again — at first, just as a hob­by. But once again, the pas­sion for run­ning over­took him and he got seri­ous. He relo­cat­ed to the Unit­ed King­dom, hired a train­er and, in 2000, took part in his first marathon in Lon­don at the age of 89.

Since his first race, Singh has par­tic­i­pat­ed in eight offi­cial marathons in Lon­don, New York, and Toron­to. His oth­er races over the years include the Glas­gow City Half Marathon, Cap­i­tal Radio Help a Lon­don Child 10,000m, and Bupa Great North Run. On Sun­day, Feb. 24, Singh took part in his final com­pe­ti­tion, a 10k race held as part of the the Hong Kong Marathon.

“I’m very hap­py,” he told Dec­can Her­ald upon com­plet­ing his final race. “When I was run­ning I felt very good, but now that I’ve stopped, I’m tired.”

Under­stand­ably, Singh has bro­ken quite a few records over the years. For his age group in the Unit­ed King­dom, he holds best time records for the 200m, 400m, 800m, mile and 3,000m — in fact, he broke all of these records dur­ing the same race. When he com­plet­ed the Toron­to Water­front Marathon in 2011, he became the first cen­te­nar­i­an in his­to­ry to fin­ish a marathon; he record­ed his career best time, 5 hours 40 min­utes, dur­ing the same race in 2003.

But Singh’s per­son­al­i­ty is just as notable as his ath­let­ic accom­plish­ments. As a prac­tic­ing Sikh, the run­ner’s dis­tinc­tive head­wear and flow­ing facial hair have earned him world­wide recog­ni­tion, as well as a long­stand­ing nick­name — ‘The Tur­baned Tor­na­do’. He fea­tured promi­nent­ly in a PETA cam­paign along­side David Beck­ham, and was a torch­bear­er for the 2012 Lon­don Olympics. Singh has also tak­en part in numer­ous char­i­ty races, and says he will con­tin­ue run­ning to sup­port var­i­ous caus­es dur­ing his post-retire­ment years.

You might be won­der­ing how Singh has man­aged to stay fit and com­pete in so many marathons at his age. Accord­ing to an inter­view with PETA, his secret is a plant-based diet. “In many parts of the world, peo­ple are dying because of star­va­tion, whilst oth­ers are dying because of overeat­ing”, he explains. “My solu­tion is just to eat what my body needs.”

Best of luck to Fau­ja Singh dur­ing his well-earned retirement!