Wednesday, March 31, 2004

93 year old Punjabi marathon runner lands Adidas endorsement.
That's truly gangsta.

The new face of adidas, 93
By Finian Davern, Evening Standard
30 March 2004

First they recruited David Beckham. Then they got England rugby hero Jonny Wilkinson in on the act.

Now sportswear firm adidas has unveiled a world-beating marathon runner as its new sporting idol.

But Fauja Singh is no designer label heartthrob. He is a 93-year-old from Redbridge who took up running only four years ago, and will be the oldest competitor in the Flora London Marathon on Sunday 18 April.
Since 2000, Mr Singh has run six marathons - four in London - and in that time has knocked 82 minutes off the nonagenarian marathon world record of five hours, 40 minutes and four seconds.

This year, the father of four, and grandfather of 13, plans to run his last long-distance race and aims to finish in five hours 23 minutes.

"I love running and want to make this last one special," he said in a break from training. "I want to go out on a high."

Mr Singh took up running after moving to London from the Punjab to live with his youngest son's family. He had been a casual runner in his younger days in India but gave up when he was 36.

"I love it because it is good for my health and it gets me out of the house," he said. "Marathons are tough, and when you're even 10 yards from the finish, you can't believe you put yourself through it. But once you cross the finish line, that changes and it's pure elation.

"I'm proof that anyone can run a marathon," he said. "I might be old, but look at all the people with disabilities who do it. It's difficult, but it's only those who haven't run one who say they can't do it."

Mr Singh jogs at least 10 miles a day. He covers six miles every morning and runs errands for friends. He is a devout Sikh, and runs between temples and community centres in east London to visit friends and relatives. Mr Singh meditates daily and swears by the medicinal qualities of ginger curries.

He will not reveal the size of his deal with adidas but admits it provides him with shoes and running wear. He gives any money he makes to charity.

This year he is running the marathon for Bliss, a charity that helps premature babies. He will also wear the logo of the British Heart Foundation in honour of some of his jogging friends who took up running after suffering heart attacks.

Adidas signed him for its Nothing Is Impossible campaign before Christmas.

"Fauja is the oldest runner in the race and every time he runs a marathon, he seems to be getting quicker," said a spokesman.

"That fitted in perfectly with what our campaign is about. He truly is remarkable. Everything we give him he gives straight to charity."

Mr Singh says he may make a one-off comeback in the 2009 London Marathon. "I will retire after this. But the world record for the oldest person to run a marathon is 98. I'd like to beat that."


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