105-year-old marathoner coming to Peel Region to share healthy living advice

Fauja Singh, a world record-holding runner and the first 100-year-old to complete a marathon, is in Peel Region this weekend for a healthy-living and diabetes-prevention seminar.

Fauja Singh to speak at Stop Diabetes Foundation’s annual healthy living event

Fauja Singh is seen at the finish line of the Toronto waterfront marathon in 2011, when he set a world record for oldest runner, and first centenarian, to run that distance.

If a 105-year-old isn't using his age to get out of running regularly, what's your excuse?

Fauja Singh is a world record-holding runner and the first 100-year-old to complete a marathon (a feat he achieved in Toronto in 2011).

He retired from marathons just before his 102nd birthday but still runs and walks recreationally, and he's in town from England for an event promoting diabetes prevention and healthy living.

Endocrinologist Dr. Harpreet Singh Bajaj, founder of the STOP Diabetes Foundation, invited Singh to speak at this weekend's event, which is aimed at a community with a high rate of diabetes.

"He runs for health and he wants to inspire people to take up running for health," Bajaj said Friday in an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "He's inspired me to start running. Last year I completed my first marathon."

According to Bajaj, Peel Region, which has a large South Asian community, has the highest rate of diabetes in Canada. Worldwide, South Asians have three to four times the risk of developing diabetes, he said.

The key components of Singh's healthy lifestyle — eating less, exercising more and keeping a positive attitude — are major parts of disease prevention, Bajaj said.

"One of the things people can learn from him is nothing is impossible," said Bajaj. "If you take your health into your hands, you can prevent diseases from happening to you."

Singh has much to teach the community about healthy living and reducing their risk of developing a disease that has no cure, he said.

​People are 'sitting too long'

So how is it possible that a man more than a century old can continue running, when 40-year-olds bow out due to joint pain and other ailments?

With Bajaj interpreting for him, Singh said a positive outlook is essential. 

"It's all in the mind," he said. "People complain of joint pain because they are sitting too long."

​The Stop Diabetes Foundation has established its SDF Vision 2020 campaign, aimed at bringing down diabetes rates in Peel so it is no longer No. 1 in Canada for the disease.

It's launching a Facebook app inspired by Singh, as well as an initiative to encourage residents of Peel Region to visit a local pharmacy to learn their risk of developing diabetes and get tips for reducing their risk.

The foundation's third annual free healthy living education day runs Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Canadian Convention Centre in Brampton.