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
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Hamas' tactics have changed -- now the group is using commando-like tactics, says CNN's Ben Wedeman.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1857 GMT (0257 HKT)
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
Former President Bill Clinton acknowledges he got "very close" to helping achieve peace in the Middle East.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0621 GMT (1421 HKT)
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1100 GMT (1900 HKT)
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1112 GMT (1912 HKT)
Yoga, meditation and watching a snake eat a frog alive: these are some of the experiences to be had at this Himalayan yoga retreat.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1152 GMT (1952 HKT)
The world's largest flying aquatic insect, with huge, nightmarish pincers, has been discovered in China's Sichuan province, experts say.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT