Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Guinness questions the claim that Fauja Singh is the worlds oldest marathon finisher at 100

Fauja Singh

Is Fauja Singh really 100 years old?   It is difficult enough just living to be a century, but add to this the ability to walk a 26.2 marathon in 8 hours.

This arose after Guinness Book of World Records reported that it hasn’t received proof of a birth certificate to confirm that Fauja Singh is the world’s oldest marathoner.

“Fauja is actually oblivious to the Guinness World Records,” said trainer Harmander Singh, no relation. “He wasn’t aware of them (at the time of the Oct. 16 race). And he’s still not aware of them.

“For Fauja, the important thing was to cross that finishing as the oldest runner at the age of 100, which, as far as he’s concerned, he’s done.

“But (the Guinness announcement) is certainly a distraction. And it’s taken the shine off this remarkable achievement, if true. It would be kind of Guinness World Records to acknowledge that their system isn’t totally infallible.”

In a statement, Guinness editor-in-chief Craig Glenday said his company has “yet to receive the documentary evidence that we need to confirm Mr. Singh as the world’s oldest marathon runner.”

Singh, who lives in east London, has a British passport that states he was born on April 1, 1911, but holds no birth certificate. The Punjabi speaker cannot read or write.

Birth certificates were not issued at the time of Singh’s birth in India, which was still an English colony at the time, according to Harmander Singh. He added that Guinness has been presented with other documentation, including a telegram from the Queen on the occasion of Singh’s 100th birthday.

Singh’s feat has officially been recognized by Ontario Masters Athletics, which organizes events for competitors over the age of 30, as well as its national counterpart.

Guinness has not closed the door on the possibility of eventually giving the green light to Singh’s inclusion in the record books.

“Like everyone who read about Mr. Singh, we were amazed by such an inspirational achievement — to finish a marathon at such an old age is awe-inspiring,” said Glenday’s statement. “As much as we’d love to ratify this record, we simply don’t have the proof.

“The claim will remain open until such evidence is provided — until then, we wish Mr. Singh all the best with his next challenge.”

It took Singh more than eight hours to cross the finish line of the gruelling 42.195-kilometre marathon — more than six hours after Kenya’s Kenneth Mungara won the event for the fourth straight year.

The five-foot-eight, 115-pound Singh was also the last competitor to complete the course.

It was Singh’s eighth marathon since competing in his first one at the age of 89 in 2000 in London.

November 10, 2011 Posted by | Marathon Running | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Waikoloa Man Sets New World Record for finishing Marathon on Stilts

Caleb Westfall at Kona Marathon, photo by hawaiiphotoman

Waikoloa’s Caleb Westfall may have set a new world record in covering a marathon distance of 26.2-miles when he covered the Kona course last month while standing on 31 inch stilts.

   According to the Guinness Book of World Records the fastest marathon on stilts belongs to Michelle Frost from the United Kingdom who finished the Flora London Marathon on April 13 2008 in a time of 8 hours and 25 minutes; Westfall achieved the same feat in a time of 7 hours 37 minutes and 11 seconds.

  Westfall’s overall time translated into a 17 minute 26 second per mile pace and placed him in 264th place out of 264 finishers.

   “I started using stilts when I was 16 years old and learning the drywall business,” Westfall said.  “The stilts help me reach up on those nine foot ceilings and I feel real comfortable using them.”

   Eight years ago Westfall’s brother gave him his current pair of stilts, valued at $200 to use in his drywall business.  “The stilts I use probably weigh 25 pounds each and some days I have them on most of the eight hour work day, but I’ve never used them outside of work,” he said.

   Westfall is no stranger to running marathons as he has finished 11 of them, prior to doing Kona on stilts. His best time came at the Big Island International Marathon when he finished the race while pushing his son in a stroller in 3 hours and 44 minutes.

  Westfall chose the Kona Marathon to try it on stilts because it is the flattest marathon course in the state and he thought it would pose the least amount of obstacles.

   “Kona is flat and I knew I couldn’t do this on any course that had hills because I would seriously hurt myself when trying to go downhill,” he said.  “But I underestimated the curvature of the road in Kona and realized during the first mile that this was going to be way more difficult than I had expected.”

   During that first mile of the marathon Westfall thought about quitting because he was walking on the sides of his feet while on the stilts and the pain was incredible.

   “I kept telling myself that I’ve never quit anything in my life and I wasn’t about to now,” Westfall said.  “At mile 15 a screw came loose on one of the stilts and I needed to get off and borrow a wrench from one of the aid station people, which took about 10 minutes to fix.”

   Westfall continued on and with about a mile to go someone had called the ambulance for him.  “I was crying uncontrollable at the end,” he said.  “The ambulance came and I waved them off as I want to finish this thing.”

   At the finish line Westfall had bruised legs and barely managed to stay on his feet after getting off the stilts.  “It felt like someone beat me up with a bat,” he said.

   “It took over a week for me to recover, but I was back at work the very next day,” Westfall said.  “The emotional toll it has taken on me and the physiological trauma that I encountered from doing this is very difficult to explain.”

   Westfall credits his childhood diseases with his reason to overachieve at everything he tries.  “I nearly died when I was two years old and by the time I was eight I had developed severe arthritis,” he said.  “If it wasn’t for the free care I got as a child from Shriners Hospital for Children in Michigan I wouldn’t be here today.”

   “My parents are still surprised that I’m doing anything athletic because they never expected me to even walk when I was a child,” he said.  “I give thanks everyday and I especially want to recognize Shriners for all they did for me.”

   Westfall first got started in sports back in 2000 when he moved to Hawaii by going the Kai Opua Canoe Club and has since tried a variety of sports from mixed martial arts to running ultra marathon (distances longer than the marathon) and even competed in the Fort Ironman Triathlon World Championships.

   The Guinness World Record will still need to be verified before it gets the official seal of certification; in the meantime Westfall is philosophical about his accomplishment.  “I never knew about any sort of record on stilts when I tried this and it doesn’t really matter if I got it or not, the main thing is that I finished what I started.”

  “I see my accomplishment as almost a religious experience,” he said.  “The pain and suffering that I encountered pales in comparison to what others have done and I will now look for other things to challenge myself.”

July 27, 2010 Posted by | Marathon Running, Running on the Big Island | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment