The oldest marathon runner in the world, Britain-based Fauja Singh, has ended on a high at the ripe age of 101 years - but that is not the end of the road for him. Not yet.
As the Indian-origin athlete completed the 26-mile London Marathon Sunday in a record time of seven hours and 49 minutes, he announced this would be his last race. But he says the London Marathon was only his last full marathon - he will continue to run smaller races, from five kilometre ones to half marathons.
The spirited sardar, originally from Beas Pind near Jalandhar in Punjab and now settled in Ilford-London, is not giving up his “only passion left” - running - just yet.
“He has hung his shoes for full marathons on a high note. Hat’s off to the man. I salute the ‘Fauja Spirit’. He is an icon,” Fauja Singh’s biographer, Chandigarh-based author Khushwant Singh, told IANS.
“I kept track of him during the London marathon Sunday. He got huge attention during the event,” said Khushwant, who wrote Fauja’s biography "Turbaned Tornado" last year.
Sporting a light-yellow tee of the London-based Sikh organisation - Sikhs in the City - and wearing contestant vest number 27507, Fauja bettered his own time of the Toronto Marathon recorded last year in October. At that marathon, Fauja had finished the race in over eight lengthy hours.
The London marathon saw Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang take the title of the men’s elite race with a timing of two hours, four minutes and 44 seconds (2:04:44 hours).
The event, considered the world’s largest fundraising event, became tragic when a 30-year-old woman marathoner, Claire Squires collapsed and died after completing 25 miles of the 26-mile race.
In all, Fauja, who turned 101 April 1, has run eight full marathons in the last 12 years. He started running professionally at the ripe age of 89 years.
Last year, when he turned 100, Fauja got a congratulatory telegram from Queen Elizabeth.
Fauja Singh is even contemplating going vertical later this year. He has been invited to be part of celebrations to mark 101 years of Taipei in June this year. Sources close to him say if he goes there, he might even attempt doing the ‘vertical marathon’ by climbing ‘Taipei 101’, one of the tallest buildings in the world.
Born April 1, 1911, at Beas Pind, age has not been a barrier for him.
Having become the world's oldest half marathon runner at 99 years of age in May 2010 when he ran the Inter-Faith Marathon in Luxembourg, Fauja, whose name means a soldier, is a one-man army who wants to keep running till he drops.
"I won't stop running till I die. I want to be remembered as the person who ran till the end," Fauja, who has been living in London for the last nearly 16 years, told IANS on a recent visit to India.
His coach Harmandar Singh said after the London event, "I don’t think he has anything else to prove."