Impossible is nothing

On Thursday, during a series of track runs in Scarborough, Ontario, Fauja “The Turbaned Tornado” Singh broke world records for runners older than 100 in eight different distances ranging from 100 metres to 5,000 metres. Then it was onto a much longer and different challenge: 42.1 kilometers of Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Quite the journey for a man who began running at 80!

Originally a farmer in India, Fauja Singh moved to the UK in 1992 to live with his son after losing his wife and another son to premature deaths. Trying to cope with homesickness, language problem and endless hours to fill, Singh sought an activity that would fulfill him mentally and physically.

“Sitting at home was really killing. Most elderly people in Britain eat a rich diet, don’t move about and only travel in cars, and that makes them sick,” he said in a 2004 interview with The Indian Express.

He wasn’t prepared to go the same way. So at 80, he took up running. Nine years later, Singh decided to try just one marathon.  He completed the London Marathon in 6 hours 54 minutes. Since then he has run in over seven marathons, and has broken 12 UK, European, Commonwealth, and World Records.

Singh is quite well-known around the world. He was featured in Adidas’ “Impossible is Nothing” campaign alongside David Beckham. Eventually Adidas He’s the subject of the biography Turbaned Torpedo and the documentary Nothing is Impossible. His Facebook page has garnered over 17,000 members. He’s dined with the Queen and will be an Olympic Torchbearer for the 2012 London Olympics.

When asked how he manages to stay in such great shape, Singh answered, “a daily eight-mile walk and run, no smoking or drinking, plenty of smiling and lashings of ginger curry.”

Fauja Singh, who said he doesn’t consider himself old at all, has a message for elderly people and North Americans in general.

“The first thing is to get rid of this notion that you’re old,” Singh told The Globe and Mail. “The other thing is, some people die of starvation in some parts of the world, but in western countries people die of overeating. And they don’t do enough exercise to burn it off. You eat to live, not live to eat.

“Many people have been inspired enough to get off their backsides, but I’d like more people to do that. It’s one thing to say you’re inspired, but another to prove it, to actually do something about it. My message to all elders is if you give up, it’s going to give up on you.”

On Sunday, Singh, recognizable by his turban and long white beard, ran alongside 12 members of his London running club “Sikhs in the City” wearing race bib #100. He was the last marathoner to come in but word of his attempt had spread and several hundred people welcomed him in. It took Singh 8:11:05.9 (chip time) to cover the full distance.

According to the CBC, Singh appeared weak and tired in the following news conference but after a few glasses of water and some quick massages, he seemed to get a second wind. Through his interpreter, he said he had set a goal of finishing the race in about nine hours. “He said he achieved this through the help of God but even God must be getting fed up of helping him,” Singh said, drawing chuckles from those present.

Watch a video of Singh crossing the finish line:

In 2003, in the same marathon, he set a record in the 90-plus category, finishing the 42.1 kilometers in five hours, 40 minutes and one second. His coach Harmander Singh knew the run would be a challenge: “The Turbaned Tornado’ hadn’t completed a full marathon distance since he was 92, a full eight years ago.

Sources: BBC, The Globe and Mail, PunjabiJanta, Canadian Press, The Indian Express