Modern Sikh Hero Fauja Singh – Elder Marathon Runner

fauja-singh.jpg

Fauja Singh

harmanders.jpg

harmander-singh-1.jpg

Harmander Singh – his trainer.

94 year old breaks 5 records within 94 minutes

As part of their contribution to the Back the Bid campaign, the Sikh Community hosted a record-breaking event at Mile End Park Stadium,

East London, on Saturday 2 July. Star performer was the indefatigable 94 year old Fauja Singh. His aim was to run 100m, 200m, 400m, the mile and 1500m, and a 3000m continuing on to finish the 5000m. Six races covering eight distances in a time limit of 94 minutes. Impossible? – nothing is impossible for the ex-farmer from the Punjab!

Together with his enthusiastic coach, Harmander Singh, who himself had just missed out on the qualifying time for 10000m at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and a group of training partners, Fauja clocked 19.97 (hand timed) for the 100, missing the UK record by 7/100th of a second. In the 200m he obliterated the UK M90 age group 200m clocking an amazing 45.13sec. The 400m he covered in 1.49.28sec, to become the first in Briton ever to contest this distance. The UK 800m time he beat by 18.02 sec, running 4.20.97sec. The magic mile he ran in 9.40.13, timed at 9.03.37 for 1500m in the process. The last event, the 5000m, 12½ times round the track, seemed a daunting target.

Cheered on by the Mayor, local Press and supporters, he reeled off consistent laps, setting a new UK M90 3000m in 18.38.48 and continuing to complete 5000m in 31.31.12, just 5.67sec off the current UK record. With five records, or six, if you allow for the fact that all races plus recovery time were completed within the 94 minutes, Fauja still had enough puff to conduct media interviews!

A synopsis of Fauja Singh’s running record is as follows:

Fauja Singh already holds the 10,000m record (64 minutes – Lahore Marathon January 2005), 1/2 Marathon (2 hours 29 minutes and 59 seconds) and the Marathon record (5 hours 40 minutes and 1 second) both at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in September 2004 and September 2003 respectively.

Fauja also covered 7km in Lisbon in 54 minutes when with the SIE team in 2006 and amazingly did 8Km in 50 minutes in 2007.

Other landmarks

Fauja ran in the inaugural Sahibzade Marathon in Punjab at the invite of Capt Amarinder Singh who was the Chief Minister at the time in December 2004 followed by the inaugural Lahore Marathon in January 2005 at the invite of President Musharaf.

He has also ran in Kenya (Kericho) just days after being invited for Christmas dinner at Buckingham Palace at the invite of Her Majesty the Queen who also awarded him the runner-up award of Living Legend at Windsor Castle in 2006.

Fauja Singh was one of the Torch bearer’s for the Athens Olympics in 2004 and in 2005 the Official Starter of the second biggest marathon in the UK (Edinburgh Marathon).where together with Amrik Singh, Ajit Singh, Ajit Singh (2) and Karnail Singh they ran the relay race in 4 hours 16 minutes with a combined age of 387 – A year later with a revamped team (Sikhs In the City) the total age was 400 years and they were 3 minutes faster.

The sequence of Fauja Singh’s half and full marathon times is as below:

London Flora Marathon 2000 6 Hours 54 minutes

London Flora Marathon 2001 6 Hours 54 Minutes

London Flora Marathon 2002 6 Hours 45 Minutes

Bupa Great North Run (Half Marathon) 2002 2 Hours 39 minutes

London Flora Marathon 2003 6 Hours 2 minutes

Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2003 5 Hours 40 minutes

New York City Marathon 2003 7 Hours 35 minutes

London Flora Marathon 2004 6 Hours 7 minutes

Glasgow City Half Marathon 2004 2 Hours 33 minutes

Capital Radio Help a London Child 10,000m 2004 68 minutes

Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon 2004 2 Hours 29 minutes 59 seconds

Lahore Marathon (10,000m) 2005 64 minutes

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28 Comments

Filed under Honoring Our Elders, Inspiring, Multicultural, Sikhi, VIDEOS

28 responses to “Modern Sikh Hero Fauja Singh – Elder Marathon Runner

  1. Elizabeth D.

    Amazing! I have never met anyone, age 94 or older, who didn’t have tremendous difficulties walking. Most of us will be dead by 90.When did Fauja Singh start running? What is his training like?

  2. Harmander Singh

    Dear Elizabeth,

    Fauja was running from an early age until he was 39, then he concentrated on farming and took up running in his eighties – his first marathon was at the age of 89 – I train him and if you think he is amazing well check out Buster Martin – he is 101 and I’ve been asked to train him to run the London Marathon on 13 April 2008

    Kind regards

    Harmander Singh

  3. kamallarosekaur

    Harmander Singh,

    A 100 year old smoker and drinker….Buster isn’t likely to make it Harmander Singh! How does Buster do on medical stress tests? Is his heart as healthy as Fauja Singh’s heart? Has he ever been a runner before?

    My experience with very healthy, very old people, is that when that one little thing goes wrong, the whole system says, “O it must be time to die.” and that is that. Bodies LOVE to die after age 90; bodies are born to die and happy to die.

    Kamalla Rose Kaur

  4. Bill

    No competition, of course. Their accomplishments speak for themselves

  5. kamallarosekaur

    Fauja Singh has the best face! He is such a beautiful looking man, and one of the greatest athletes ever.

    I have every confidence that Fauja Singh can run another marathon at age 98 as planned, and when he dies, he will die a great runner and humble Sikh. But Buster I worry about. I worry about his dropping in front of a crowd, when he is a beginner and all. Who is sponsoring him?

  6. Gurmit Singh

    Sorry, I can’t catch up being retired and now at 72. By God’s Grace I wish to get up early in the morning, take bath and recite Nitnem and then go for a walk, listen to Shabd Kirtan for an hour and
    take healthy breakfast. Listen to Radionews, check up Emails and newsitems, attend to some other household duties, take some rest, read & write to keep myself busy. Try to keep myself close to Akaal Purkh through recitation of True Naam and by performing daily duties conforming to the Gurbaani and Gurmatt.

    Truly, leading a very comfortable and satiated life as good as emancipated in life.

    With best wishes,

  7. Harmander Singh

    I am meeting up with Buster on 18 December to assess his current fitness and to devise a suitable training schedule for him.

    Will be able to answer most questions after that.

    PS I thought I was the best looking runner around – it is only my modesty that prevents me boasting how wonderful I am.

    Harmander Singh
    exactly half of Fauja Singh’s age on 3 December 2007

  8. Elizabeth D.

    Gurmit Singh,

    Sounds like a very healthy life you lead. What is Akaal Purkh?

    Harmander Singh,

    I don’t care for suits and ties. I agree that you look wonderful in your colorful running clothes waving that banner. Hope you keep running as long as Fauja Singh. You are halfway there.

  9. kamallarosekaur

    1. Right on Elizabeth!

    Forcing ugly old suits on men everywhere is a disgusting sin. Much better if we all start wearing Punjabi style pajamas – comfortable and beautiful and flattering.

    2. Received a note from an “old” religious studies professor of mine; almost age 60 and looking good!

    HI Kamalla,

    Thanks for the inspirational info on the old runner. I thought I’d let you know that I plan to stay in shape and compete at swim meets into my 90s. I will turn 60 in 3 months. There are others doing it–so it can be done. I’ve enclosed two photos of me at the finish at recent victories.

  10. kamallarosekaur

    Elizabeth,

    Akal Purkh means “The Timeless One” or “The Being Beyond Time” or “Eternal One”. It is a Name (Naam) for the Creation/Creator, Source of All.

  11. kamallarosekaur

    101-YEAR-OLD BUSTER RECRUITS MARATHON ‘SENIOR ATHLETES’ EXPERT IN BID FOR 2008 RACE

    9/1/08
    Britain’s oldest working man, 101-year-old Buster Martin, has stepped up his bid to complete the 2008 London Marathon by recruiting an expert personal trainer who specialises in senior athletes.

    Harmander Singh, who most notably trains 96-year-old Fauja Singh the current world record holder for over 90’s marathon running, will be working with Buster in the build-up to the Marathon in April.

    He has trained 50 people to run marathons including members of the world’s oldest marathon relay team, which was made up of five men with a combined age of 407 years.

    Buster, who works three days a week for Pimlico Plumbers, London’s largest independent plumbing company, has been an active person all of his life.

    After years of strenuous physical work on market stalls and stints in both the Army and Navy, Buster now continues his exercise regime into his second century with daily press up sessions and trips to his local boxing club.

    Buster said: “I’ve never backed away from a challenge and with the right training there should be nothing to stop me from running the marathon. Harmander knows his stuff and I’m sure his experience and training ideas will pay off.”

    Harmander Singh said: “Buster, like Fauja, is living proof that age is no barrier when it comes to running. He is in good condition and with my training programmes he can achieve his goal of taking part in the marathon. Most importantly he has the will and desire to compete, which is a very important factor.”

    Charlie Mullins, Managing Director of Pimlico Plumbers, said: “Buster’s energy is boundless and there is no reason why he can’t complete the marathon. It certainly will be another fantastic achievement in a lifetime of amazing milestones.”

  12. kamallarosekaur

    Seen on the BBC Website,

    Man, 101, to run London Marathon

    Buster is counting down to the London Marathon on 13 April

    A 101-year-old man has his sights on the London Marathon in a bid to become the world’s oldest competitive runner.

    Working plumber Buster Martin ran Sunday’s Roding Valley half marathon in Essex in five hours 13 minutes, and is now focusing on London’s 26-mile event.

    On finishing the run, the first words of the ex-member of rock band The Zimmers were:

    “Where’s my beer?”

    Mr Martin, who has 17 children, started work at Pimlico Plumbers in London three years ago because he was bored.

    He drank a tankard of ale before signing autographs and chatting to fans near the finish line of the Essex race.

    ‘A revelation’ Charlie Mullins, managing director of Pimlico Plumbers, said he was “amazed” when Mr Martin appeared at work on Monday morning after his exertions.

    He said: “I was amazed and delighted, he turned up on time and set to work polishing the vans. He’s a revelation.”

    Mr Martin’s trainer is marathon enthusiast Harmander Singh, who helped Fauja Singh, 96, break the London marathon record for the over-90s.

    Buster, who lives in London, made headlines last year when he signed up as an agony uncle for men’s magazine FHM, offering guidance to a younger generation.

    He also found fame when The Zimmers, who had a combined age of more than 3,000 years, scored a hit single last year with a cover of The Who’s My Generation.

    __._,_.___

  13. kamallarosekaur

    Great News From Harmander Singh!

    complete half marathon – World Record
    Dear all,

    It gives me great pleasure to announce that Buster Martin who was 101 years and 183 days old on Sunday 2 March 2008 completed the Roding Valley Half Marathon distance in 5 hours 13 minutes and 13 seconds. A world record for no-one over 100 has ever completed the distance before.

    I am Buster’s trainer and am preparing him to tackle the Flora London Marathon on Vaisakhi Day (13 April 2008) as his first marathon – as it was Fauja Singh’s first marathon in April 2000.

    This race was very special to me as:
    it proved that my training methods are credible,
    Fauja Singh was not a fluke,
    I met my PE teacher who first inspired me to run 35 years ago – John Sailsbury,
    it was the first race ever that I wore a turban – I have run several hundred,
    I heard that Ajit Singh Kalirai (80 years old) won several gold and a silver medal on the same day at the UK Masters Championships – he ran the 60m race and did the long and triple jump.

    John Sailsbury ran in the Tokyo Olympics (1964) and also the Commonwealth Games – he greatly admires Milkha Singh who beat John in a sprint finish.

    Ajit Singh Kalirai is a member of the World’s oldest Marathon Relay Team – others are Master Ajit Singh, Amrik Singh, Karnail Singh, Gorbakhsh Singh and of course Fauja Singh – I normally pick the team from this group for specific races.
    I provide below a small selection of video clips of Fauja Singh, Ajit Singh and Buster (taking his special drink DURING the race) – Buster has said he loves the Sikhs, they are the only ones with beards longer than his – we may yet convince him that he should change his name to Banta Singh – lol.

    The clips can be seen at:

    Sikhs, Fauja Singh, Buster Martin, Ajit Singh – Superstars:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/gtalewar



















    Harmander Singh
    UK

  14. Harmander Singh

    Just wanted to say that I believed in Buster being able to complete the half-marathon, all I needed to do was to convince others – including Buster.

    He is a changed man, and now looking forward to the bg one on Vaisakhi day (13 April) of all days. I have joked that I will get him to adopt Sikhi and wear the turban – he already has a beard longer than mine – his Sikh name will be Basant Singh although Banta Singh sounds good too.

    I will answer any questions about this subject if they can be collated and put to me in batches, it all becomes a little tedious answering the same questions repeatedly – so I suggest that if people can pose the questions to Kamalla Rose Kaur, they can be grouped and I will endeavour to answer them on a weekly basis.

    Hope you all liked the YouTube clips.

    Harmander Singh

  15. kamallarosekaur

    Harmander Singh,

    Tell us the whole story! How was Buster’s health when you first met him? We see he still loves his Guiness; does he still smoke? What sort of training?

    Jolly Good Show Mate!

  16. Harmander,

    I hope everything goes well with Buster’s training. I’m the editor of a new Canadian running magazine (www.runningmagazine.ca) and I’d love to interview you about what it’s like being the trainer for these incredible athletes. Please contact me through the magazine website if you have a moment.

    I’m also interested in how Fauja is doing these days. Is he still running? I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon a few years ago. In the same race, I broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon pushing a baby in a stroller (2:49:53).

    Cheers,

    Michal Kapral
    Editor-in-Chief
    Canadian Running Magazine
    http://www.runningmagazine.ca
    416-927-0774

  17. Ilse

    Where are his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren? Nobody seems to have been at the finishing line at the Roding Valley half marathon. What time do you anticipate for the London marathon?

  18. Lotus 7

    What proof do you have of Buster’s age? Age group records need to be verified. Are you prepared to go through that process?

  19. kamallarosekaur

    Sikhs often appear to be lounging around using our own feet for target practice! This News from Harmander Singh (say it ain’t so!):

    Dear all,

    Please read the following exchanges and help us ignorant runners to AT LEAST raise awareness about Sikhi as requested of us.

    I say at least, because other than Bhai Jaswinder Singh Chadda and family from Chingford who have made a cash donation towards the cost of our participation – and an offer from the USA (who sought anonimity) but SIE declined there have been no other UK based offers of financial help.

    So, given that there is clearly an abundance of (in most cases) genuine scholarly knowledge about Sikhi from the Diaspora Sikhs (only), I would be most grateful if material for an information pack could be compiled. This hopefully would not be too onerous a task given Sikhi has been around a few centuries and it will help with the much needed awareness raising campaign to mark the tri=centenary of SGGS later this year.

    Closing date for my request is 27 April 2008.

    Much obliged and thanking everyone in advance.

    Harmander Singh
    UK

  20. Ilse

    It’s a pity that you did not address the concerns expressed about proof of B. Martin’s actual age and what seems like a complete absence of his large family – 17 children and some 70 grandchildren and greatgrandchildren, according to Buster. He is obviously an old man and deserves praise for attemtping to walk a marathon but if he is not 101 but only 94 or even less, then how fair is it to others, including a superb elderly athlete like Fauja Singh, to pretend otherwise and stealing the limelight?

  21. Harmander Singh

    Dear Ilse, Lotus 7 et al,

    I am aware of the concerns raised by some – no doubt there may be individuals out there who are sceptical about many things in life – did man really land on the moon?, was there a Holocaust?, did the Prophets/founders of religions really exist? etc etc.

    The reason why I did not comment on the evidence or otherwise of Pierre Jean (Buster) Martin’s age is because it is difficult enough for me to get and maintain the motivation needed to help such individuals achieve what they have achieved – complete the measured distances in the stated times. I keep to what I am (seemingly) good at and leave the other issues to those who wish to pursue their enquiries.

    I have remained professional in that I never comment on the personal/private life of the ‘trainee’ but can give chapter and verse on their performance in completeing different aspects of the training I assist with.

    I respect anyone of any age who can complete a marathon distance, I think the figure of 0.001% of the world population, even less have done it more than once.

    I wonder what proof has been used to verify the details of the current entry in the record books of the oldest man to complete a marathon – the Greek runner Dimitrion Yordanidis, aged 98, in Athens in 1976. He finished in 7 hours 33 minutes.

    I hope I have made my position clear.

  22. Ilse

    I noticed with surprise, again, that there seems to be a complete absence in the press reports and press photos as to Buster’s supposedly large family – 17 children and 70+ grandchildren and greatgrandchildren – who could certainly confirm some of his stories as well his age. Anyway, I use this opportunity to point out that while Buster Martin’s entry in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia is long and detailed and full of his antics, the article about Fauja Singh is very short and there is not even a picture of him. Maybe someone wants to supply a photo and more details of his life. Anyone can register and contribute to Wikipedia.

  23. kamallarosekaur

    Ilse,

    That is a great suggestion about Wikipedia.

    Are you thinking that maybe Buster is a fraud, that he is only 89, and suffering from dementia or worse? That he is into personal gain and fame – he’ll do anything for it – even train for, and then run, a marathon?

    I sure have nothing against you, or any reporter or media person going after the facts, but you aren’t getting them from Buster’s trainer. Harmander Singh is hired to train Buster, plain and simple.

    Maybe for different reasons, I too do not care if Buster is cheating. I have worked in too many elder care facilities and done too much hospice to not marvel and cheer. True enough people do get forgetful and sometimes even a bit batty after 90…

    Actually at present, I only KNOW one person over 90 well, and walking is very difficult for her.

    I guess what I am saying is that it is impossible for me to feel competitive about elders. Seems disrespectful of their wisdom and grace.

    What is your perspective?

  24. Ilse

    Kamallarosekaur,

    I do respect older people – it is part and parcel of the culture I grew up in. One of my grandmothers died 2 months short of her 100th birthday and remained physically and mentally active until the end of her life, the other one died age 98 but was confined to a wheelchair for the last year and suffered from dementia so I think I have an idea of the wide range of abilities in this age group. I myself walked a marathon at age 56 in 7h 35 m for the simple reason that I wanted to see whether I can do it. Personal achievements deserve admiration, no matter how they compare to others.

    Initially, the more I read about Mr Martin the more I asked myself whether he was cleverly being exploited by others for publicity reasons. He and the group who accompanied him during the half marathon and the marathon were dressed in his employer’s outfits and they even carried a large company flag with them. That’s odd for amateur races, in my experience. He’s handed a beer at the finishing line before he is photographed – it all looks a bit staged so that it makes a good PR story to be fed to the masses. Anyway, his 10 hour walk did not do him any harm, it seems, and the relationship between him and his employer seems to be one of mutual benefit. I wish Mr Martin a very long and happy life.

  25. Ilse

    Hi Harmander, you mentioned Yordanidis. There is very little information about Yordanidis, at least on the internet. I read with great interest today an article, in German, written by someone who actually took part in the Classic Marathon-Athens race in 1978. He mentions in passing that Manfred Steffny, a renowned marathon runner (2:16:45 in 1972) and editor of the Spiridon sports magazine, wrote at the time that Yordanidis drove in a car during part of the race. Apparently, the race organization was such that this was entirely feasible. I know nothing about the accuracy of his birth date. I personally would not be surprised if Fauja Singh were the oldest (as well as fastest) marathon runner and marathon participant ever. In any case, Fauja Singh is a runner, not a walker, anyone who watches the youtube videos can see that, and I truly admire him as an athlete and a gracious and dignified elder person.

  26. Vaheguru ji ka khalsa
    Vaheguru ji ki fateh!

    I’m so happy I happened upon this post about Fauja Singh ji. I absolutely love him. He seems to be the incarnation of “Chardi kala,” which all of us Sikhs aspire to. I think he reminds me of my own sweet Dad who died in 1982, age 97. While not a marathon runner, up until the last weeks of his life, he walked several kilometres a day, unaided by cane, I must add. These elders can be an inspiration to all couch potatoes, I hope.

    I am only 56, but a bit crippled with arthritis developed in my knee injured in 1984, and a major stroke about 3 years ago. When I get that knee fixed, I do have a goal of running/jogging/walking, OK, completing a marathon some day. That comes from shortly after coming out of the coma from the stroke, when I asked my doctor, “Hey, Doc, when will I be able to run a marathon?” He made the mistake of telling me, “Not in this life, I’m afraid. I doubt you’ll ever be able to walk.” Realistic, I suppose, but not very practical for me. Well, I do walk and continue to improve and grow strong. I am losing weight, anticipating the knee replacement.

    You’ll be hearing more from me, World, even without the good Harmander (Warning: don’t misspell his name!) Singh (Warning: don’t call him ji) as a trainer.

    Chardi kala to all!

  27. Harmander Singh

    Dear all,

    I happen to revisit this thread and felt I needed to bring everyone up to date with events.

    Buster fell off his push-bike in early November and spent several weeks in hospital due to injuries he sustained. He was entered for the Flora London Marathon on 26 April 2009 and I was asked to assess Buster’s capability for it by Pimlico Plumbers (his employer) in early February.

    Having visited his employer (I do not work for them), I took Buster out for a gentle training session and reported back that Buster was not in good enough physical condition to risk him taking on the marathon distance and that he ought to consider building up his strength and stamina over a longer pewriod of time. Buster was withdrawn from the race as a result.

    Fauja singh still come to train with the group on Sunday mornings and currently there is a film maker who is making a short bio-documentary about Fauja that will be shown in Cinemas when finished.

    The film crew started their shooting on Sunday 10 May 2009 when Team Fauja followed over seventy cyclists who covered a 14 mile route in East London visiting eight Gurdwaras in order to raise funds for local charities – it took us three and three quarter hours but included breaks at each Gurdwara along the route.

    On Thursday 21 May the Sikh running team will fly out to Luxembourg to take part in the ING Luxembourg InterFaith Marathon (see http://www.interfaith.lu) for the second successive year where Fauja Singh will be joined by Ajit Singh and Amrik Singh as part of the Relay Team. This will be followed by the Edinburgh Marathon on 31 May where the Sikhs have entered two relay teams called ‘Sikhs In the City’ 1 and 2 with the elders team comprising Fauja Singh, Ajit Singh, Amrik Singh and Karnail Singh having a combined age o 337 years and 11 months (average age of nearly 84.5 years) – a new world record.

    With God’s grace I am planning for Fauja Singh to play a role in the London 2012 Olympics in some way (I am part of the Faith reference Group for the Games). It is possible that Fauja Singh may already be back on the international marathon running scene before then.

    The Sikh Sports Association is happy to consider any sponsorship deals from Sikh businesses to avoid the necessity of taking up the offers from major multi-nationals whose products may not be faith sensitive (alcoholic drinks, meats etc).

    Harmander Singh

  28. Chuttha Singh

    OH BALLE TERE FAUJEYA!

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