Fauja Singh, p2

When he is running abroad, Fauja collects pledges for local Sikh charities.— and he tries to strengthen the prestige of his religion. After he had decided to go to Toronto to run in the marathon there, the editor of a Sikh newspaper in New York City asked him to run in the New York marathon instead. He told Fauja that Sikhs in New York had a bigger problem with their image than did Sikhs in Toronto — and he said that things had got worse since the September 11th attacks.

Fauja felt that he had to help the Sikhs of New York, so he decided he should run there as well as in Toronto. This meant that he would have to run in two marathons in six weeks. His doctors advised him against that. They said he needed at least four months rest between marathons.

Fauja went ahead and ran anyway. He finished but it wasn’t easy. He had a bad ankle and he had to stop several times for medical treatment and bandaging. It took him more than seven hours to finish.

Sikh men are expected to wear turbans at all times, and Fauja always wears one when he is running. In New York a few people yelled, ‘Saddam!’ or ‘Osama!’ as he ran past but this didn’t bother him. He says he is proud to run in a turban because it makes people more aware of the Sikh religion. Even the idea of dying when he is running appeals to him. He says: “If I die when I am running it will make a bigger impact, more people will know about Sikhs and our cause.”

Fauja was back in Toronto for the 2004 marathon. But this time he only participated in the half-marathon which is held at the same time. He finished in two hours and thirty minutes — a record time for his age group. He plans to restrict himself to half marathons for the next few years. He’s doing this as a way of preserving his strength until 2009 when he will be ninety-eight years old. No one older than ninety-seven has run a marathon. Fauja plans to run another marathon in 2009 — and become the oldest person ever to complete the race.

In the meantime, Fauja intends to continue his regular training program. He will walk or run ten kilometers or more every day. He will stick to his vegetarian diet, eating lots of bread and beans and drinking a lot of green tea. And he will continue his daily meditation. He says running has given him contentment in his old age. He believes that God has given him his good health — and he says that his running is a way of giving back.

- information from: National Post, 04.09.27 (Joseph Brean); Toronto Star, 04.09.27; National Post, 04.09.25 (Joseph Brean); Toronto Star, 04.09.10 (Diane Scarponi); Toronto Star, 04.05.07 (Chris Young); News India, 04.10.08 Times of India, 04.12.23; India Abroad, 03.12.05 (Arthur Pais); India Abroad, 03.11.14 (Thayil Jeet); UP International, 04.03.24; Birmingham Post, 02.04.15; Toronto Star, 03.09.29 (Randy Starkman)