100-year-old sets record with marathon finish

Fauja Singh, 100, has finished Toronto's waterfront marathon, securing his place in Guinness World Records as the oldest person to accomplish a run of that distance.
Fauja Singh, 100, raises his hands in celebration as he crosses the finish line in Sunday's Toronto waterfront marathon. Singh set a world record as the oldest person to complete a race of that distance. (Canadian Press)

Fauja Singh, 100, finished Toronto's waterfront marathon Sunday evening, securing his place in Guinness World Records as the oldest person — and the first centenarian — to ever accomplish a run of that distance.

Singh, a British citizen, was the last person to complete the race, crossing the finish line just before 6 p.m. ET with a time of 8 hours, 11 minutes and 5.9 seconds.

Although event workers were dismantling the barricades and taking down sponsor banners as he made his way up the final few hundred metres of the race, a throng of media, family, friends and supporters were there when Singh made marathon history.

Singh, who only speaks Punjabi, said through his coach and translator Harmander Singh that he had set a target time of nine hours.

"He's absolutely overjoyed. He's achieved his life-long wish," his coach said.

Set 90-plus marathon record in 2003

The run is Fauja Singh’s eighth marathon. In 2003, in the same Toronto marathon, he set a record in the 90-plus age category, finishing the 42.1 kilometres in five hours, 40 minutes and one second.

Singh, affectionately known as the Turbaned Tornado, 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 the centenarian turned to running after losing his wife and child to "tragic circumstances" about 20 years ago. His coach said the runner didn’t want to discuss those tragic circumstances. Part of his outlook is maintaining a constant focus on the positive.

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.

On Thursday in a separate event, Singh also broke world records for runners older than 100 in eight different distances ranging from 100 metres to 5,000 metres.

He also carried the torch during the relay for the 2004 Athens Games.

Toronto waterfront marathon director Alan Brookes struggled to find the right words to describe Singh's remarkable accomplishment on Sunday.

"I'm speechless," he said. "Fauja Singh is a remarkable human being."

With files from the Associated Press