I joked with a friend before running the London Marathon last week that I didn’t mind where I  came as long as I wasn’t beaten by a banana. Foolish words. I passed someone dressed as a giant testicle at five miles running for a cancer charity, a beer bottle at ten miles and was out-sprinted by Super Mario Brothers in the home stretch. Oh, I forgot the old bloke running in a Mankini.

 

Think you’re too old to get in shape?

Then it’s time to meet 99 year-old Fauja Singh, the fastest pensioner on the block.

The majority of senior citizens enjoy putting their feet up after a lifetime of work but Fauja Singh is still busy breaking records and making a name for himself as one of Britain’s most extraordinary athletes.

The Redbridge based runner plans to rewrite the record books again next year by becoming the oldest and fastest man in his age group to complete a marathon.

Success would mark the culmination of a remarkable career which began at the relatively youthful age of 81 when Fauja took up running to stave off the boredom of sitting at home.

The diminutive Sikh has since completed the gruelling 26.2 mile distance seven times and is the current over 90s world record holder.

Age seems to have little relevance for the devout vegetarian whose daily training regime includes an eight mile run, early nights and a positive mental attitude.

Fauja said: “I do not consider myself to be old. From the moment I do that, I would lose everything, because age is a state of mind – as long as you’re positive, you can do anything.”

His decision to start running marathons was originally sparked by watching the London race on TV along with a chance encounter with Harmander Singh, a veteran of nearly 50 (marathon) races who agreed to train him.

Harmander said: “We just started with the basics and slowly built Fauja’s mileage up. It was simply a case of breaking the training down into manageable chunks and moving towards our goal. He’s quite a celebrity now.”

Fauja also competes as part of quintet of runners called Sikhs in the City who have a combined age of 420 years. All five members of Sikhs in the City share an infectiously positive outlook and lust for life that is key to their ongoing success.

Ajit Singh, 80, for instance, has just learned to ride a bicycle, so one of his goals now is to complete a triathlon. He and his lifelong friend Amrik Singh, also 80, have completed more than 1,000 races between them and acted as mentors to Fauja.

So, when does the country’s most famous Sikh intend to put his feet up?

“I won’t stop running until I die. The next target, God willing, is to be the oldest marathon runner ever.”

If you’d like to know more, log onto www.sikhsinthecity.org

 

Marathon runner Harmander Singh likes to dress up for the big occasion and has completed the London Marathon a knee trembling 25 times in a variety of guises including Obelisk the Gaul, Wee Willy Winky and as a nurse.

The indefatigable 50 year-old has raised thousands of pounds for charity since running his first marathon aged 24 and has competed in 43 marathons all over the world.

Harmander now passes on his experience of long-distance running to people wanting to get in shape through the ‘Sikhs In The City’ Running Club who meet every Sunday morning in Redbridge, east London.

“We’re always looking for people to join,” says Harmander whose most high profile success was training the then 89 year-old Fauja Singh to run his first marathon in just ten weeks.

Fauja was a poster boy in Adidas’s ‘Impossible is Northing’ campaign and also competes in road races as a member of Sikhs in the City whose four members have a combined age of 336 years.

Harmander added: “We have a 2km circuit of local roads marked out which people run around. I always jog or walk alongside new members to assess their fitness, work out a training programme and assign a ‘running buddy’ of similar ability. We take people of all ages and abilities so don’t be shy about coming along.”

His combination of encouragement and gentle leg pulling has certainly got some impressive results and his enthusiasm for running infectious.

“We have one member who was overweight and recovering from a heart condition who ran a marathon within 18 months and another who’d never run before but was clocking up15km in a matter of weeks and couldn’t believe how fast she lost weight.

“Running can really change your life. You don’t need expensive equipment or membership fees bar a decent pair of running shoes.

“It’s all about personal achievement and we are here to help people reach whatever goals they set themselves as long as they show commitment.”

Harmander has an unusual if honest motivational tool for new members.

“I tell people to go home, take their clothes off, stand in front of the mirror and ask themselves if they like what they see.

“I ask them to acknowledge it has taken a lot of time, money and effort to get in that condition and that re-directing even half that effort into getting in shape will work wonders.

“My advice is be realistic and work towards a goal. It’s amazing what you can achieve over a period of time with sustained effort.”

The father of four discovered his own love of running as an errant schoolboy growing up in south Ilford and still enjoys the sense of freedom it gives him.

“I find running a great way of keeping in shape and getting rid of stress.

“It also brings people together. I’m a firm believer that there is only one race of people and that’s the human race.”

Harmander’s commitment to helping people is a reflection of his Sikh faith and the Sikhs In The City Runners simply present him with another opportunity to help the community.

So does anyone else in the Singh family run?

“Oh yes. I’m a baby really. To date, I‘ve run 43 marathons but my uncle is way ahead of me on 111 at the age of 66.”

If you would like to get in shape, why not join the Sikhs In The City Runners on Sunday mornings and take the first step towards realising your goals of living a healthier live. Harmander would like to hear from anyone interested in joining on 07858 94 6868 or harmanders@btinternet.com.

It is free to join the club but you can also join the Sikh Sport Association on a rather novel membership (you don’t have to be a Sikh to join). Simply subtract you age from 100 and that is your lifetime fee. Membership will give you access to a year round calendar of sports events and activities. For details, speak to Harmander.

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