Centenarian marathon runner Fauja Singh had already lost his wife, and the sudden demise of his son in 1991 in Bias Pind in Punjab completely shattered him. Villagers were concerned about his state of mind and informed his son in London about his condition. In 1992, Singh boarded the flight from India and went to live with his son and daughter-in-law. And that is when a new chapter in Singh’s life was written.
In Essex, Singh noticed people running which made him curious. He asked his son. “I couldn’t understand why people were running. My son informed what they were actually doing. And I told myself, why can’t I do the same. So even I started to run,” said the frail Singh, who is in the city to participate in the Mumbai Marathon. Singh will feature in the senior citizen’s run (4.3km) on Sunday.
Running is part of his daily routine now. “Everyday I run for at least three hours. My coach Harmander Singh has really helped me, in fact he has shaped my career,” said Singh, popularly known as Running Baba.
Singh started running at the age of 88. His personal best came in the 2003 London Marathon with 6:02:00. Singh plans his 24 hours well. “I try to keep myself busy and my mind happy by keeping away all the negative thoughts,” said the Turbaned Tornado.
Singh’s day begins at 5am as he tunes in to the radio. “Early morning, I like listening to the radio and the news. Then, I go for a run and after that, I make it a point to visit Gurudwara and thank the Almighty for what he has done to me,” said Singh, who converses only in Punjabi. His biographer, Khushwant Singh, was sitting along with him, translating his chaste Punjabi into English.
This is not all. Singh even does grocery shopping. "I decide which route to take every morning and visit shops that are on the route."
At 101, Singh is concious of what he eats. “One should eat what one can digest. I try not to eat samosas, jalebies or pakoras,” said Singh. But there is one thing that makes Singh’s stomach rumble . "Pinni, a traditional Punjabi sweet, is one thing I can never give up. I eat it everyday.”
A man of substance, Singh also carried the Olympic torch in the London Olympics 2012 when it reached Newham. Singh even had an opportunity to meet the queen. “When I was called by the queen, my coach suggested that I should just hold the queen's hand and not give her a tight jhappi (hug). It is very common among Punjabis to hug people whenever they greet others,” laughed Singh.
Singh is aware that football is the favourite sport in his adopted country, Britain. He enjoys watching it. “On TV, I like watching football and wildlife-related shows,” said Singh, who paused for a while and then added, “I also enjoy watching some Punjabi shows."
Singh plans to keep the Hong Kong Marathon on February 24 as his last official race.