Like many of the runners in Sunday’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, 100-year-old Fauja Singh has his sights set on breaking a record.
But unlike the 5,000 other entrants in Sunday’s big run, Singh won’t be running with a finish time in mind. Instead, the man whose authorized biography is entitled The Turbaned Tornado, is out to become the first person on the planet to finish a full-distance marathon past the age of 100. If he manages to accomplish the feat, Singh will set a Guinness World Record.
Sunday’s run will be Singh’s eighth marathon. In 2003, in the same Toronto marathon, he set a record in the 90-plus category, finishing the 42.1 kilometres in five hours, 40 minutes and one second.
His coach and interpreter admits the run will be a challenge: He hasn’t completed the full marathon distance since he was 92, a full eight years ago.
"He's really happy, and looking forward to it," said his coach and translator Harmander Singh, whose "student" only speaks Punjabi.
"In the past he used to look forward to the challenge because he had to set times and everything. Now he hasn't been running a marathon distance for a number of years, so there is a concern. But he's determined to finish with the blessing of God. He's going to rely on God to help him out."
Fauja Singh, a British citizen, was born on a farm in India in April 1911. He stands five foot eight inches tall and weighs about 115 pounds.
Part of his secret, according to his coach, is that he eats a light diet of mainly tea, toast and curry.
Harmander Singh said Fauja turned to running after losing his wife and child to "tragic circumstances" about 20 years ago. His coach said Fauja Singh didn’t want to discuss those tragic circumstances. Part of his outlook is maintaining a constant focus on the positive.
"Running has given him a new focus in life," said Harmander.
On Thursday, during a series of runs in Scarborough, Fuja Singh broke world records for runners older than 100 in eight different distances ranging from 100 metres to 5,000 metres.
"He just enjoyed the run. The records are a bonus," said Harmander Singh.
Alan Brookes, race director for Sunday's marathon, said Fauja Singh is an inspiration to all athletes, young and old.
'Remarkable physical talent'
"He’s a remarkable human being," said Brookes. "He's having a great impact around the world on our sport but also much broader than that ... to show what you can do with dedication, determination and a good dose of courage."
Through his running, Fauja Singh aims to raise money for local charities including, the Guru Gobind Singh Children's Foundation, which has a mandate to help children meet basic needs.
His coach said it’s no accident Singh has chosen to make his latest mark in the Toronto marathon.
"He loves the people here," said Harmander Singh. "This is a special place to him."