THE PARTY WOULD BEGIN just as soon as the race ended. And the race would end just after Fauja Singh crossed the line in 3,851st place. By finishing then -- by finishing at all -- Fauja would do what no man before him had ever done. Amid the bundled and cheering crowd in Toronto, underneath a distended but gracious sky, he would complete a marathon. And he would do so at 100 years old.
Was it pain he felt as he approached the end, just footsteps away from redefining the limits of human endurance? No, this wasn't pain. Fauja knew pain. Pain was death -- you see plenty of that when you live 100 years. Pain was bloody limbs and overtaxed joints -- you get too much of that when you insist on completing every race you ever start. This wasn't pain but exhaustion. And Fauja could handle exhaustion, because exhaustion foreshadowed euphoria. When Fauja got tired, it often meant a record would soon fall.
He'd already broken a few. Fastest to run a marathon (male, over age 90), fastest to run 5,000 meters (male, over age 100), fastest to run 3,000 meters (male, over age 100), and on and on they went. But those records didn't roll off the tongue the way this one would. Oldest person to complete a marathon (male): Fauja Singh. The other feats had earned him recognition from the Masters Federation websites. This one would put him in the Guinness World Records. An official with the company had contacted Fauja's coach, Harmander Singh (no relation) several weeks earlier. Harmander told Fauja that Guinness would send representatives to watch Fauja run in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and as soon as he finished, they would award him the recognition he deserved.