(NEW YORK) — At age 101 Fauja Singh has sprinted across his last finish line by competing in a 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) section of the Hong Kong Marathon this past Sunday.
Nicknamed the “Turban Tornado,” the Indian-born British national clocked in a time of 1:32:28. His average pace was just under 15 minutes-per-mile, half a minute faster than at the same event last year.
“Today is one of my happiest days,” Singh who only speaks Punjabi, said through his interpreter after he crossed the finish line with a broad smile on his face and waving the Hong Kong flag. “I felt so fresh and so good. I felt I’m full of power today.”
Singh gained international attention when he began running marathons as a spry 89-year-old. After nearly 13 years, he announced that the Hong Kong Marathon on Feb. 24 was to be his final competition.
In a distinctive yellow turban and long beard, Singh earned his moniker for being devilishly fast, at least in his age bracket. Singh set race records for his age group when he was in his nineties. His fastest time for the 26.2 mile marathon distance was 5:40 minutes at the 2003 Toronto Marathon. In 2004, he carried the torch for the Athens Olympics.
Singh hangs up his shoes just shy of his 102 birthday in April. The Guinness Book of World Records has denied his place in the record books as the oldest marathon runner because he has not been able to produce a verifiable birth certificate.
At 5-foot-8 and 85 pounds, Singh credits his success to a healthy lifestyle that includes no smoking or alcohol and a vegetarian diet. And, while he won’t be competing anymore, he won’t be completely giving up on the sport. Instead he is planning on a lighter daily routine, just eight to nine miles of running a day.
Now that he is officially retired from competition, he said he hoped “people will remember me and not forget me.”
American Gladys Burrill, the oldest female marathoner to pound the pavement, was 92 when she turned in a time of 9:53:16 (a pace of 22 minutes and 38 seconds per mile) at the Honolulu Marathon in December 2010. She is officially recognized by Guinness.
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