broke away:
separated from

serious runner:
a runner who works very hard to improve

for fun:
just for pleasure (because it is enjoyable)

had no meaning:
had no purpose

got together:
met with each other

his age group:
people of approximately the same age

finish line:
the place where a race ends

got his time down:
ran more quickly than he had in other races

it took him more than six hours:
he required more than six hours

a serious, formal promise to do something

Fauja Singh (easy version)

Fauja Singh was born in 1911 in an area that was at that time part of India. He left his first home in 1947 when the part of India where he had been born broke away and became a new country, Pakistan. Like many other Sikhs, Fauja decided he didn’t want to stay in Pakistan. So he moved to India and started a new life there.

Before he moved, Fauja had been a serious runner. After his move, he stopped running in races, but he continued running for fun. Even when he was in his seventies, he usually went from one place to another by running.

In 1993 Fauja’s wife died. His oldest son asked him to come and live with him in London, England. Fauja went but at first, he was not happy. He felt his new life in England had no meaning.

There were many Sikhs living in London though and they often got together. Sometimes they had sporting events and, at those events, Fauja started running again. He began by asking other old men to run 100-meter races with him. He always won. Then he started asking old men to run 200-meter races. He found that no one in his age group could even get to the finish line.

Winning races made Fauja happy. He felt that his life had meaning again. He ran farther and farther — up to five kilometers, and then up to ten. In 2000, he was watching television, and he saw a show about the London marathon. He was surprised to see how many old people were able to run so far — forty-two kilometers. He decided to try it himself.

In 2000, when he was eighty-nine, he ran his first marathon. In 2001 he finished the London marathon in six hours and forty-five minutes. That was the best time ever for over-ninety-year-olds. In the 2003 London marathon Fauja got his time down to six hours and eleven minutes. There were more than 32,000 runners in the race. Fauja crossed the finish line ahead of more than 10,000 of them.

In 2003 Fauja ran in the Toronto marathon. He wanted to run there because the route is quite flat and that means it is a good race for getting good times. Fauja wanted to be the first ninety-year-old to run a marathon in less than six hours. He finished in five hours and forty-five minutes.

For Fauja running is not something private. It is not something he does only because he enjoys it. He has another reason too: getting money for people who need help. Before a race, marathon runners often ask other people to make “pledges.” These people promise that if the runner finishes the race they will give money to a group of people chosen by the runner. When he is running in England, Fauja asks people to make pledges to a group that helps babies who have been born too early. He says that, in this way, “The oldest are helping the youngest.”

When Fauja is running in other countries, he asks people to give money to give money to help Sikh groups in the area. He knows that people often have angry feelings toward Sikhs because they don’t understand them. He wants Sikhs to change this and he believes that by running to get money for them he can help them to do this.

Soon after running in Toronto, Fauja ran in the New York City Marathon. His doctors told him this was a mistake. They said he needed a long rest. But he ran anyway because he wanted to help the Sikhs living in New York. Because he was tired, this was a difficult race for Fauja. His ankle hurt badly and he had to stop several times to get help from doctors. It took him more than seven hours to finish the race.

Fauja came back to Toronto for the 2004 marathon, but this time instead of running the full distance, he ran only a “half-marathon.” His finished in two hours and thirty minutes.

At that time, Fauja said that for the next few years, until 2009, he was going to run only half marathons. His plan was to run another marathon in 2009. Then he would be ninety-seven years old and the oldest person ever to finish a marathon.

While he was waiting for 2009, Fauja planned to keep himself in good condition. He was going to run or walk ten kilometers or more every day. He would not eat any meat. He would eat a lot of bread and beans and he would drink a lot of green tea.

Fauja says that running has made him happy in his old age. He says he believes that God has given him his good health and that 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)