The world of long distance running has many stories to raise the spirits, but
the career of Fauja Singh is unique. Born into a peasant farming family in
India, he came to Britain eleven years ago and started running aged 89! In this
years Flora London Marathon this very special talent ran 6:07:13 in wet and
cold spring weather. Good for him! But theres more to marvel at. Singh was
already a world record holder in running 5:40:14 in Toronto in 2002 and this
among other fine performances impressed the sportswear company adidas. Thats
how he came to be a "colleague" of David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane.
But having a sponsors contract doesn mean that Fauja Singh lives the high life:
he uses his running to raise money for charity, in particular the British Heart
Foundation and BLISS, which is devoted to the care of premature babys. As a
schoolboy in Punjab in north-west India he used to run cross-country races and
now hes rediscovered his talent.
"With the grace of God I can still run," he explains, and because
of my faith I run to help the vulnerable." His body is something special.
Compared to the average person, admittedly of 93, Fauja Singh is a
physiological marvel: his general fitness is 180 % higher than average for
someone of his age. But theres more to it than that and its a big
"But" because of the difference between his left and right legs.
Tests have shown that his left leg is more like that of a 20-year-old, while
the right has more the strength of a 50-year-old. All the same, his training
schedule is something to behold: around 7 to 10 miles (12 to 16 kilometres)
each day, a mix of walking and running. Once a week he and his coach get
together, another Sikh with the family name of Singh but with the first name of
Hamander. He makes good use of experience: "If Im tired, I just use my bus
His teeth aren as good as they used to be. He can really only eat soft food
that doesn need much chewing, nor are his eyes so good these days. He has never
learned to read or write. But his fitness and ambition remain strong, while he
now takes a break from marathons. His plan is to come back in five years and
break the world record for a 98-year-old, currently held by a Greek. A
vegetarian, he avoids rich food, preferring to drink yoghurt, water and plenty
of tea with ginger. His advice on how to cope with the last 6 miles (10
kilometres) of the marathon? "Running 20 miles is easy. After that I speak