Saturday, 23 February 2013

Happy Trails Mr. Fauja Singh

From the files of "those who inspire" comes this amazing story about the world's oldest long distance runner.  Mr. Fauja Singh, age one hundred and one announced that he would be retiring from competitive racing after he completed his race today in Hong Kong.  While he "only" ran 6.25 miles in today's race, he did become the oldest person ever to complete a marathon in 2011 at the age of only 100.  Of course the sitffs at World Guiness Records won't officially recognize his feat due to his lack of a birth certificate, something he can't be blamed for as at the time of his birth India did not have a proper system of tracking births and many perhaps even most people born in his era went without proper documentation.

If you aren't blown away enough by his marathon completion at age 100, perhaps the rest of the tale will knock you flat.  He completed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon at age 100 in 2011 in a time of 8:11:06.  Unbelievably, this was only 3 days after he set not one, not two but EIGHT world records for his age category at a meet in Toronto at Birchmont Stadium.  He ran the 100 meter, 200 meter, 400 meter, 800 meter, 1500 meter, 3000 meter, the mile and the 5000 meter races all on the same day.  He established records in every race he attempted, including a few that had never been completed by anyone over 100 before.  He also significantly beat a number of 95-100 age group records. 

The whole story is quite hard to fathom.  Even in the most advanced countries in the world human beings on average expect to live to about 80 years old.  Here is a man who was born in a country where life is expected to be much shorter, yet at an age when nobody is expected to be physically active, he is accomplishing feats that very few at any age would even attempt.  The 8 races he ran in 1 day total approximately 13 kilometers a distance that I have managed once in my life.  That day was merely a warmup for him as he went on to run a full marathon just 3 days later. 

I would like to wish Mr. Fauja Singh well in his retirement even though he has no plans to quit running.  He ran his last competitive race today, but plans to continue running for pleasure until he can't run anymore.  I've read about him before and been inspired by him.  The feats he has accomplished in a pair of sneakers while pounding asphalt on 100 year old joints is something to behold. 

While I doubt I could accomplish the marathon any time soon, I would love to attempt to complete all 8 races that he ran in Toronto, on the same day.  It will take some serious training and commitment, and even more heart and mental fortitude but I would love to make it happen.  I plan to get back to running in the coming weeks as the snow begins to melt.  I regularly ran last spring and summer, but training for this much larger distance complete with stops and rest in between will be quite a test.  Stopping and resting then starting up again is much more difficult then pacing yourself through one race of the total distance.  I will keep you posted with my successes and failures throughout the spring and summer.

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