Believe it or not, a 100-year-old man was reported to have yesterday become the oldest person to complete a marathon.
Fauja Singh, a British citizen who was born in India, finished the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 8:11:05, becoming the first first centenarian to complete a marathon.
It was Singh’s eighth marathon. He set a record as a 90-year old in the same race in 2003, when he finished 5:40:01.
Singh, who was the last runner to complete the course yesterday, reportedly was overjoyed. “He’s achieved his lifelong wish,” said his coach and translator, Harmander Singh.
Along the way to the finish line, Singh also broke world records for runners older than 100 in eight categories, from 100m to 5K.
Singh was born on a farm in India in April 1911, 5’8″ and weighs just 115 pounds. He has said that part of his secret is that he eats a light vegetarian diet of mainly tea, toast and curry. Singh took up running about 20 years ago after tragically losing his wife and child.
Fauja Singh, 100, receives a finishing medal after crossing the line in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday.
There was tragedy on the course as well, unfortunately. For the second week in a row, a runner died after attempting to complete a long distance race. Yesterday in Toronto, a 27-year-old man reportedly collapsed as he neared the half-marathon finish line. The man was taken from the course to a hospital, where he later died. The Canadian Press reported that it appeared he suffered a heart attack.
Last week a man died in similar fashion in the Chicago Marathon. It somehow seems especially tragic that both men died when they were so close to finishing their race — both within 500 yards or so of the end.
But perhaps that’s part of the reason. Many of us have a tendency to pick up the pace and finish strong when we come towards a race’s end — the old “horse smelling the barn” effect. Perhaps this late burst of speed and adrenaline is what triggers the fatal heart attack.
Or perhaps it’s just the cumulative effect of running the race. Or perhaps that was just each runner’s time to check out, and he happened to be racing at the moment. After all, there were over 40,000 runners in Chicago last week, and 22,000 total runners in Toronto yesterday. For the vast majority of these runners, racing was a prefectly safe thing to do.
In the menatime, my thoughts go out to the grieving families. I do hope, however, that some researchers look into this. But even if a link between a fast fininsh and a higher risk of heart attack is confirmed, I’m not sure it would change the way any of us race.
Are any of us strong enough to hold back when the finnish line is right before us? And what’s the point of racing if we are supposed to hold back? Perhaps we just need to prepare as best we can and take our chances — just Singh did in his marathon, and as we do in all aspects of life.