Oldest marathon runner announced retirement

By Dil Neiyyar
BBC Asian Network

image captionFauja Singh will retire from marathons on Sunday to concentrate on shorter distances

A man believed to be the world's oldest marathon runner says this Sunday's London Marathon will be his last.

But 101-year-old Fauja Singh, from Ilford, east London, will not be hanging up his running shoes just yet.

He intends to compete in what he calls "short races" of 5km and 10km.

His trainer Harmander Singh said: "I believe it's probably best that this is the last. I don't think he has anything else to prove."

Speaking in Punjabi, Fauja Singh said: "I'm very excited. But I'm worried I could get flu or something like that before then. So I can't wait for Sunday to come."

His coach believes he is in good shape for the 26.2-mile run and is hoping Fauja Singh clocks up a good time.

The London Marathon has a special significance for the great-grandfather as he was inspired to take up the sport after watching television coverage, 12 years ago when he was 89.

'Best trainee ever'

His coach said: "I only had 10 weeks to train him for his first marathon. He turned up the first day in a three piece suit and a pair of trainers.

"But he soon got his decent gear and we haven't looked back.

image captionTrainer Harmander Singh got Fauja Singh ready for his first marathon in 10 weeks

"Turning him into a marathon runner was one of the easiest jobs I ever had because he was so keen on doing it.

"If I said we're doing 10k today he would say why not 20k? (He's) the best trainee I have ever had."

Fauja Singh has run a total of eight marathons including the London and New York races.

He has enjoyed every one of them but the one that stands out more than the others is the Toronto marathon.

That is when he raced himself into the record books as the world's oldest marathon runner.

Fauja Singh's remarkable story has left many people scratching their heads. How can someone his age run 26.2 miles?

Some have even begun to question his age because he does not have a birth certificate.

But Harmander Singh believes the criticism is unfair: "Fauja Singh was born in India at a time when there were no birth certificates.

"He has a British passport and we've had letters from Her Majesty on his 100th birthday. The Olympics would use the passport as a definitive document."

Many people in the running world think critics are missing the point. A marathon is tough whatever your age.

image captionFauja Singh ran his first marathon aged 89

Mike Gratton, a 1983 London Marathon winner, said: "I think everybody is absolutely astounded that somebody of his age can still be doing any sort of sport.

"But to run a marathon, which for many people is the ultimate in endurance, is quite incredible."

Others see Fauja Singh's achievements as a sign of changing times and that society needs to re-think how it views older people.

Emma Spragg of Age UK said: "Everybody now in the UK, one in four of people born today, will live to be a 100. So there's bound to be more people being active in later life. So why not keep challenging those boundaries."

Although Fauja Singh is retiring from marathons after Sunday his coach believes his legacy will go on.

"Everyone who has come across him or heard about him... says if he can do it, we can do it. We have a saying 'he is my granddad'. Well, he is everybody's granddad."

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