Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fauja Singh, The Runner

My brother shared this story with me today, and it was so inspiring I had to share it on my blog.  Enjoy and be inspired.

by Jordan Conn
PORTRAITS BY LEVON BISS

THE PARTY WOULD BEGIN just as soon as the race ended. And the race would end just after Fauja Singh crossed the line in 3,851st place. By finishing then -- by finishing at all -- Fauja would do what no man before him had ever done. Amid the bundled and cheering crowd in Toronto, underneath a distended but gracious sky, he would complete a marathon. And he would do so at 100 years old.
Was it pain he felt as he approached the end, just footsteps away from redefining the limits of human endurance? No, this wasn't pain. Fauja knew pain. Pain was death -- you see plenty of that when you live 100 years. Pain was bloody limbs and overtaxed joints -- you get too much of that when you insist on completing every race you ever start. This wasn't pain but exhaustion. And Fauja could handle exhaustion, because exhaustion foreshadowed euphoria. When Fauja got tired, it often meant a record would soon fall.
Fauja Singh crosses the finish line in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in Toronto on Oct. 16, 2011.
David Cooper/The Toronto Star/Zuma Press
He'd already broken a few. Fastest to run a marathon (male, over age 90), fastest to run 5,000 meters (male, over age 100), fastest to run 3,000 meters (male, over age 100), and on and on they went. But those records didn't roll off the tongue the way this one would. Oldest person to complete a marathon (male): Fauja Singh. The other feats had earned him recognition from the Masters Federation websites. This one would put him in the Guinness World Records. An official with the company had contacted Fauja's coach, Harmander Singh (no relation) several weeks earlier. Harmander told Fauja that Guinness would send representatives to watch Fauja run in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and as soon as he finished, they would award him the recognition he deserved.
So Fauja ran in Toronto, arms swinging, yellow turban bobbing, chest-length Zeusian beard swaying in the wind. He was joined by other runners with roots in the Indian region of Punjab, their appearance in keeping with the traditions of their Sikh faith. Fauja trotted for the first three miles, until his coach encouraged him to slow to a jog. Speed was fleeting, the enemy of endurance. By mile 6, he'd downshifted to a toddle. After a break for a rubdown and some tea at mile 18, he settled into a walk.
The exhaustion took hold sometime around mile 20, but Harmander kept Fauja upbeat with white lies about the remaining distance. He'd tell Fauja there were four miles left when there were actually six, then two miles left when there were actually three, making Fauja believe he'd covered more ground than he actually had, until finally Fauja saw the only mile-marker he understood: the finish line.
What had been silence between footsteps was now music and cheers. The slog to the finish reminded Fauja of his wedding day, of the joy that awaited at the end of the long aisle. He waved to the crowd as he walked across the line, then lifted his arms and accepted a medal. He'd finished in 8 hours, 25 minutes. There were smiles and handshakes and photos with friends and strangers, then a rambling news conference for Fauja to reflect on his record. 

Click here to read the full story.

0 comments:

Post a Comment