Finishing First and Last: Fauja Singh, India's 100-Year-Old Marathon Man

Image Credits: Levon Bliss
Image Credits: Levon BlissLevon Bliss

Indians are more likely to feature in the Guinness Book of World Records for more anomalous reasons. Like the longest ear hair or the ability to pick up 3 bicycles with just their teeth. Not that there’s no pride in having hair that curls for miles but it does make us a little more grateful for a certain Fauja Singh--a man who defies physics in a much less hirsute manner.

Image Credits: Levon Biss for ESPN The Magazine

At 89, the man ran his first marathon, the joys of running having been discovered only a few years earlier and the notion of a marathon only became possible to him just a little before actually running one. It wasn’t long before he was scooping up records and awards everyday. At 100, he did the unthinkable, he became the oldest man, a centenarian, to complete a marathon in a little over 8 hours. It didn’t matter that he was the last person to cross the finish line. The crowd reaction he received was far more compelling than those who finished hours before him. Mostly because, in a more incredible way, he was still the first.

Fauja’s story is a remarkable one, right from his birth to the trials and tribulations he faced over his lengthy life, to choosing running towards rather than waiting for the ultimate finish line in his opinion–his own death. You can read a detailed version by ESPN here.

Watch him run his last marathon ever below:

Image Credits: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Image Credits: Levon Bliss

Fauja Singh’s story is now immortalised in paper, Simran Jeet Singh, a Religion, Culture and History professor at the Union Theological Seminary, New York released ‘Fauja Singh Keeps Going — A true story of the oldest person to ever run a marathon’  a children’s book on 25 August 2020.

In an interview with The Indian Express, the author explained the intention behind the book, “growing up in the US in a Sikh family, we always used to wonder why there were no storybooks or children’s books with turbaned superheroes? I used to ask my parents why there can’t be any superheroes that look like me! Especially after 9/11 attacks, the Sikh community in the US has faced a lot and continues to do so. There were racial and hate crimes as they were mistook as terrorists. It was so important to introduce a superhero from my community and tell children that there can be superheroes who wear turban and have beards.” 

The book has been a bestseller on Amazon since its release. You can find the book, here.

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