Every once in a while there comes a sports story that is truly difficult to comprehend due to how inspirational it is.
As the incredible career of 101-year-old marathon runner Fauja Singh wraps up after the Hong Kong Marathon on Sunday, it is worth examining this extraordinary man's accomplishments, as well as his impact away from racing.
Singh holds the world record for the lowest marathon time in his 90-plus age bracket, as he completed the 2003 Toronto Waterfront Marathon in an astounding five hours and 40 minutes.
The odds have always been stacked against Singh, but he has never wavered in his dedication to finishing the race—and with speed. With catchy nicknames such as the Turbaned Torpedo and the Sikh Superman, Singh is easily likable for his sheer running accolades alone.
There is some question as to the accuracy of Singh's age, since he didn't have a birth certificate in 1911 after being born in British-occupied Punjab, India. However, that does not take away from his outstanding athletic prowess.
But that's not all that makes Singh's story special.
One of the big reasons he chose to cap off his career in Hong Kong was because of the immense charity donations he raked in at last year's event. According to John Carney of the South China Morning Post, Singh accumulated roughly HK$104,000.
Although he has scaled back his involvement to limit his races to 10-mile stretches—and will only run 10 kilometers on Sunday, according to the India Times—he continues to make a positive impact and difference in the world both monetarily and otherwise.
The particular agenda on Singh's mind this time comes in light of protests that have swept across India over the Delhi gang rape incident, as crimes against women throughout India have continued to rise. Singh feels it is important to raise awareness to this issue, as reported by Sarabjit Pandher of The Hindu.
The way that Singh got involved in the first place in running unprecedented distances at his age seemed like a long shot—and came with his own set of personal trials and tribulations.
As documented in a wonderful feature by Jordan Conn of ESPN's Outside the Lines, the family of Singh noticed that he couldn't walk properly for the first several years of his life. Singh was unable to do more than crawl as a four-year-old, and was unable to properly walk until he was 10 years old.
His wife passed in 1992, and the tragedy that he endured when his son passed away in 1994 led Singh into despair.
But it also sparked him to get out of the house and begin running to take his mind off of things.
Eventually, he was beating everyone he ran with in his new home in London, and took off on his own when there were no other seniors to race. That led to training with Harmander Singh to train for the London Flora Marathon in 2000—just 10 weeks before the race began.
Singh is the prime example of a determined individual who never gave up on his dreams. At the time, Singh was now 89 years old. His debut at London wrapped up with a time of six hours and 54 minutes.
So anytime that you don't feel like hustling, think of how much Singh has overcome—and how much he continues to give in terms of inspiration and donations to charities—to get to where he is.
The Guinness Book of World Records may not recognize Singh as the oldest marathoner ever, but that doesn't diminish the impression he will ultimately leave when he walks away from competition on Sunday.
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