Khushwant Singh

Fauja Singh British Marathon Runner

London and Beyond
Fauja Singh, supported by his coach, who by now had started setting goals for him, soon started participating in runs, both short and full distance, outside London. Harmander, himself a keen marathoner, would enroll Fauja’s name along with his and soon raised a team comprising senior Sikh marathon runners. Each step they took toward this enhanced the Sikh image as a gritty and sporting community, a cause, which would soon land on Fauja Singh’s lone shoulders. Fauja, who was beating his own record each time he took to the track, soon found himself running on the streets of various cities of the world including Toronto for the Scotia Toronto Lakefront Marathon. He grabbed the headlines when he completed the race in five hours and forty minutes, almost bettering his record by an hour, even though he was three years older since his first marathon.

Fauja Singh’s toughest race has been the New York Marathon, but it is a great story of the fortitude and resilience Sikhs are blessed with.

Taunted by the name Osama bin Laden many times over by onlookers, Fauja had started the race on an indisposed note. Though unwell, he had decided to run, since he felt his running would enhance the image of the Sikhs, who had been facing the wrath of the white supremacists thanks to them being thought of as Muslims. A resilient Fauja completed the race against all odds, but it took him over seven hours to complete it. He collapsed at the finishing line, only to stand up again before being rushed to a waiting ambulance for first aid. ‘I had to get up because if I hadn’t, the pictures in the media would have been of a Sikh collapsing. I could not do that. Sikh pride was at stake,’ he says, recalling the harrowing experience. This experience shattered Fauja Singh’s confidence, and it got his coach worried. Being conferred with the prestigious ‘Ellis Island Peace Award’, a reward recognized by the US Congress did little to bolster Fauja’s confidence.

Harmander hoped that Fauja would emerge from this experience, and thanks to the will of almighty, and to a very large extent his own, Fauja was ready to retake the track. In the 2004 London Marathon, which he was running for the fifth consecutive year he finished the race in six hours and seven minutes, much to the relief of his coach. Harmander Singh soon realized that full marathons were taking a toll on him, and he decided thereon that Fauja would participate only in half marathons or short distance runs. The other major reason for doing this was he wanted to save Fauja’s energy for the biggest run of his life. It was to make him run in 2011. Fauja would turn one hundred that year. A Greek man, who had run a full marathon at age ninety-eight, as per the Guinness Book of World Records, held the record for the oldest marathon runner.

Khushwant Singh