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On April 1, 2024, author Simran Jeet Singh celebrated the 113th birthday of the runner who inspired his book “Fauja Singh Keeps Going”, along with his agent, and the book's Japanese publisher, in a Tokyo bookshop while signing copies in both English and Japanese. 

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The beautifully illustrated book Fauja Singh Keeps Going is a true account of Fauja Singh’s life story, the author wrote for children around the world after Fauja Singh told him in his 100th year that his main regret in life had been not doing more to inspire children. Simran Jeet remembered growing up without any books of people like him as a child and vowed to remedy that for his own children and chose Fauja Singh as the hero of his storybook for kids. 

Rural Punjab

Fauja Singh's life story began on April 11, 1911, in rural Punjab. Born with a weak constitution, Fauja Singh could not walk before age five. His early childhood weakness prevented him from going to school, so he grew up illiterate. But he kept going. It would take 15 years before he could walk well on his spindly legs which earned him the nickname Danda meaning “stick.” He began farming sugar cane and wheat, working long hours in the fields with his oxen, and also took up running for sport until the partition interfered. Eventually, he married and had six children, three girls and followed by three boys. His grown children left home one by one, emigrating to Canada and the UK, until only one son remained to help him farm.

Series of Tragedies

A series of tragedies in the early 90s forever altered Fauja Singh’s quiet rural life. 

In 1992, his wife Gian Kaur passed away, leaving him forever widowed, and his eldest daughter, Gurbaksh Kaur, died during childbirth while delivering his third granddaughter. The compound loss left him feeling bereft. 

Then in 1994, a horrific storm took the life of his son Kuldip. Utterly devastated Fauja Singh became despondent. But urged by his remaining children to join them, Fauja Singh kept going.

London Life 

In 1995, after relocating to the West, Fauja Singh’s London life began. Encouraged by his children, Fauja Singh took up running as a hobby in his mid-80s, one day while watching a television program, he learned about marathon running and decided to give it a try. 

In 1999 at age 88 Fauja Singh ran his first 20-kilometre marathon on behalf of cancer patients. After completing the race, Fauja Singh felt that meaning, purpose, and fulfillment had come back to his life because he could do something for someone else who needed help. So he kept going.

Marathon Record Breaker

Fauja Singh decided to enter another marathon in 2000 but found that the entry date had passed. Fortunately, he hooked up with Harmandir Singh, a marathon competitor, who put Fauja Singh together with a registered sponsor. The BLISS marathon on behalf of premature babies, covered more than 42 kilometers, twice the distance of his previous run. Fauja Singh completed the race and kept going.  He began to train in earnest with Harmander Singh who kept him on track, training and running marathon after marathon, with an ultimate goal of achieving a world record when he reached 100 years. 

Meanwhile In 2001, at the age of 90, Fauja Singh set a new record in his age category in the London Marathon and beat his own best time. 

In 2000 he continued breaking records for his age category in the London Marathon and became known as “The Turbaned Tornado.” 

In 2004, Adidas made him their sports poster athlete and brokered an endorsement deal with Fauja Singh featuring him alongside other world athletes like David Beckham and Muhammad Ali.

In 2008, Fauja Singh had the honor of carrying the Olympic Torch through the streets of Athens when Greece hosted the Olympics. 

In 2011, during the London Marathon, Fauja Singh broke eight world records at age 100.  

From 2000 to 2013, breaking both personal and world records, Fauja Singh competed in cities around the globe including Athens, Frankfurt, Glasgow, London New York City, Tokyo, Toronto, Mumbai, and lastly Hong Kong where he hung up his marathon running shoes at age 102. Still, Fauja Singh kept going. 

Retirement If You Can Call It That

Following the 2013 Hong Kong Marathon, at age 102 Fauja Singh officially retired from long-distance running which meant running from six to eight continuous hours, covering 42 kilometres or 26 miles during that time. But he maintained training at a less rigorous pace and continued to run in shorter distance charitable events. As always, he continued to contribute his winnings to the charities he raced for.

In 2014 at age 104, “Age Appropriate” featured Fauja Singh looking dapper in a fashion spread outfitted in the finest of men's fashion wear

In 2016, for the second time, Fauja Singh once again carried the Olympic torch, this time through the streets of London, accompanied by an admiring group of Sikh runners. A langer, (free meal) held in his honor fed 20,000 of the people who attended the event.

Winning Combination of Diet and Exercise

When queried about his longevity and stamina, Fauja Singh who is a couple of inches shy of six feet and weighs in at 52 kilograms or about 115 lbs, credits his simple vegetarian diet which consisted of drinking only water and ginger tea, eating alsi bhinnee, a flax seed confection, and yogurt for breakfast. His main meal consists of plain dry roti (chapati) without butter, lentil dal seasoned with ginger, and sabji made with primarily green vegetables.  

When speaking about his habits in his Punjabi mother tongue, Fauja Singh insists that he does not sit. His words express his personal motto, “Sleep, walk, run, or else die.” And so at 113 years of age, Fauja Singh keeps going.

Personal Hero

I became aware of Fauja Singh, around the time the entire world did, when he began training with Harmandir Singh, whom I met in the online email group Gurmat Learning Zone GLZ. Fauja Singh became my personal hero and inspiration, and Harmander Singh my long-distance personal trainer as he gave me basic training tips on how to intersperse 30 seconds of running with 60 seconds of running at intervals to build stamina. I had lost track of both of them after Fauja Singh retired and email groups gave way to social media. To learn that Fauja Singh has reached his 113th birthday when I am at an age when many of my close friends have been departing this world is a kind of thrill that breaks through the foundering bewilderment of facing death and once again inspires me to live life to its fullest and keep going!
 

 

Sukhmandir Kaur Khalsa

Sukhmandir Kaur Khalsa

Sukhmandir has written hundreds of articles on topics related to Sikhism and has co-written and and edited several books on the Gurmat teachings and Naam Simran meditation. 

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