Skip to main content

'Turbaned tornado', world's oldest marathon runner, retires

By Katie Hunt, for CNN
February 25, 2013 -- Updated 0813 GMT (1613 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fauja Singh, 101, completes final race in Hong Kong
  • The great, great grandfather has run 9 marathons
  • Took up long-distance running after death of son
  • Attributes success to love of the sport

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Not your average great-great grandfather, Fauja Singh has completed nine 26-mile (42-kilometer) marathons since taking up long-distance running just over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 101-year-old Sikh finished his final competitive race in Hong Kong, putting an end to a sporting career that has raised thousands of dollars for charity and been an inspiration to many around the world.

Nicknamed "Turbaned Tornado" by fans for his distinctive traditional headwear, Singh said he began long-distance running in an attempt to lift the depression that engulfed him after he witnessed the death of his son.

"I suffered a tragic incident in my life, a traumatic experience; I took up running as a new focus in life. And then marathon running developed from there," he told CNN at a training session before Sunday's race.

Fauja Singh smiles after completing the 10-kilometer run during the 2013 Hong Kong Marathon on Sunday.
Fauja Singh smiles after completing the 10-kilometer run during the 2013 Hong Kong Marathon on Sunday.

He completed the 10-kilometer route that wound its way along Hong Kong's harborfront in one hour 32 minutes and 28 seconds -- four minutes faster than his time last year despite a small stumble.

"Five or six kilometers into the race, I really decided to go for it," he said. "I had lots of power today because I was very happy. "

Singh moved to the UK from India following the death of his son and entered his first marathon in London in 2000 aged 89.

In 2011, Singh became the first centenarian on record to complete a marathon after finishing the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2011 in eight hours and 11 minutes and six seconds.

He was also a torchbearer for the 2012 Olympics and was featured in Adidas' "Impossible is nothing" advertising campaign.

"He's focused, determined and single minded ... he's never set out to break records," said his trainer Harmander Singh, who has been coaching him for 13 years.

Although the Hong Kong event was Singh's last competitive race, his coach said the centenarian will still run for pleasure.

"He's my best student, I would say, which is ironic because he's twice my age."

As he hangs up his running shoes, Singh told CNN he had no secret diet or training regimen. He attributed his success to a simple love of the sport.

"It's because of the happiness I get out of it. If something makes you happy, you'll do it well."

CNN's Aloke Devichand, Elizabeth Joseph and Diego Laje contributed reporting in Hong Kong.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1443 GMT (2243 HKT)
A captured fighter tells CNN's Ivan Watson: "They gave us drugs... that made you go to battle."
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1331 GMT (2131 HKT)
A terminally ill woman who plans to take her own life checks off the last item.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 2340 GMT (0740 HKT)
In a plot straight out of Hollywood, federal agents gain access to a suspected Triad boss' Vegas hotel room by pretending to fix the Internet connection.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 0434 GMT (1234 HKT)
Was it only black and Latino men who harassed a woman in NYC? The filmmaker has found himself in a race controversy.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 0317 GMT (1117 HKT)
The history of human rights often overlooks the struggles of gay people. This must change.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 0115 GMT (0915 HKT)
Armed with Kalashnikovs and chanting for the dead comrades, women are among ISIS' most feared enemies. They are fighting for their families -- and now they are getting U.S. help.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1246 GMT (2046 HKT)
Lere Mgayiya put his best foot forward and set up a shoe-shine firm after his career plans fell flat.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 0528 GMT (1328 HKT)
One Chinese drone manufacturer wants to take away the warmongering stigma of "drones."
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 0312 GMT (1112 HKT)
Sketcher Luis Simoes is traveling the world -- slowly. And he's packed his sketchbook.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)
European states help North Korea's brutal treatment of its people by allowing luxury goods like cars and cognacs to evade sanctions, two experts say.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1104 GMT (1904 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT