Short of 102, Fauja to run his final Mumbai marathon

Fauja

Post 9/11 when Sikhs were being targeted owing to mistaken identity, Fauja was invited to run a marathon in NY so that the community is projected in the right light

At 89, most would find the zest for life waning. Then, there are some who take up challenges thrown at them by an ageing body head on, and win. Fauja Singh, who will turn 102 in April, is a winner. He was 89 when he ran his first marathon, following a personal tragedy.

For more than two decades, running has been Fauja's medicine and on Sunday, the world's oldest marathon runner will be seen in Mumbai, perhaps for the last time in the Mumbai Marathon as he plans to hang up his boots in February.

The only time he betrays his age is when, while talking, he drifts into a zone of his own. Mumbai becomes Bamba, Mauritius is Maarfu and he takes you back and forth while narrating a story, often breaking into a grin. "Wherever I go, people shower me with love, take very good care of me. Be it Toronto, New York or London. It's love that keeps me going," says Fauja, who will take part in the senior citizen run (4.3km) on Sunday.

Hailing from Bias Pind near Jalandhar, Fauja moved to UK in 1982 after his son died in a road accident.

In fact, it was his son who introduced him to the sport.

"He saw a marathon on television and promptly asked his son 'why are these people running aimlessly?' His son explained and he was fascinated by it," says Fauja's biographer Khushwant Singh.

Soon, Fauja, along with his friends, formed a group in London, 'Sikhs in the City.' "If I knew back then that all I would do is run aimlessly like them (the runners he saw on TV), I would never have run," Fauja jokes.

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