104-Year-Old Marathon Runner Fauja Singh

Fauja Singh was born in Beas Pind, Jalandhar, Punjab, British India on 1 April 1911, the youngest of four children. Fauja did not develop the ability to walk until he was five years old. His legs were thin and weak, and he could hardly walk long distances. Because of this, he was often teased, and had to carry the nickname "danda" for the next ten years. As a young man, Fauja was an avid amateur runner, but he gave it up at the time of the 1947 India-Pakistan Partition.

At 89 years, he took seriously to running and ended up in international marathon events. When he first turned up for training at Redbridge, Essex, he was dressed in a three-piece suit. The coach had to rework everything, including his attire. Singh ran his first race, the London Marathon, in 2000. According to his coach, he used to run up to 20 kilometres easily and wanted to run a marathon, thinking it to be just 26 kilometres and not 26 miles (42 kilometres). It was after he realised this that he began training seriously.

Singh shot to fame when, at the age of 93, he completed the 26.2 mile distance in 6 hours and 54 minutes. This knocked 58 minutes off the previous world best for anyone in the 90-plus age bracket.

Singh is 172 cm (5 ft 8 in) tall and weighs 52 kg (115 lb). He attributes his physical fitness and longevity to abstaining from smoking and alcohol and to following a simple vegetarian diet.[26] He has been quoted as saying "I am very careful about different foods. My diet is simple phulka, dal, green vegetables, yogurt and milk. I do not touch parathas, pakoras, rice or any other fried food. I take lots of water and tea with ginger. ... I go to bed early taking the name of my Rabba (God) as I don’t want all those negative thoughts crossing my mind."

On 13 November 2003, Singh was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor by the National Ethnic Coalition, a group that advocates ethnic pride and tolerance. William Fugazy, the chairman of the coalition, said Singh is a symbol of racial tolerance, and his running helps bridge the gap created by the 11 September terrorist attacks. "He is the greatest inspiration," said Fugazy, and added that Singh was the first non-American to receive the honour. He was awarded the "Pride of India" title by a UK-based organisation for his achievements in 2011.