Marathon man, 100, takes challenges in his stride

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 February, 2012, 12:00am


Within hours of touching down in Hong Kong, Fauja Singh was earning respect - even from taxi drivers.

At 100, Singh is the world's oldest marathon runner and he is in town to compete in the 10-kilometre race in Sunday's Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon.

After a visit to The Peak yesterday, he and his coach and translator Harmander Singh took a taxi to a press conference at the Excelsior Hotel in Causeway Bay. En route, the driver was told about his passenger's amazing running career and why he was in Hong Kong - the driver was so impressed he didn't charge him.

This is praise indeed for the man nicknamed the 'Turbaned Torpedo' who became the oldest runner to complete a marathon last October when he ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. He finished in 3,845th place, still ahead of a handful of others, with a time of eight hours, 25 minutes and 16 seconds.

Born on April 1, 1911, he was already elderly when he moved from the Punjab to London in the late 1980s and decided to take up running. He had spent most of his life working the land and still speaks only Punjabi.

'In London, he used to challenge old-aged pensioners to sprints because he knew he could beat them. Then he moved on to longer distances,' Harmander Singh said.

'When I first met him he was going out to run in a three-piece suit. It was like he was running away from the scene of a crime. He had no concept of what to wear, let alone what training he should be doing.'

He ran up to 20 kilometres easily and then wanted to run a marathon, but there was one little snag - he thought a marathon was 26 kilometres, not 26 miles, or 42 kilometres. It was after he realised this that he began training seriously under the guidance of Harmander Singh.

In 2000 he completed the London Marathon in a time of six hours and 54 minutes. Harmander Singh said he soon became his best pupil and the records tumbled in the process.

The marathon runner became a British citizen in 2003. The running wonder attributed his physical fitness and longevity to not smoking or drinking and being a vegetarian.

It's Fauja Singh's first visit to Hong Kong after he accepted an invitation from the city's Sikh community.

'I've been to other countries but not Hong Kong. It is a fascinating place,' he said. 'I'm looking forward to running the 10km and will give it my best shot.'

When I first met him he was going out to run in a three-piece suit.