Marathon Celebrity Fauja Singh, Aged 101, in Race Row with Guinness World Records
Guinness World Records are refusing to acknowledge 101-year-old Fauja Singh’s claim that he is the oldest marathon runner in history, prompting allegations that the organization is guilty of “institutional racism”. The institution accepts only birth certificates as evidence of age, thereby excluding populations across the developing world.
According to The Daily Telegraph, Singh grew up in a rural part of Punjab, India, and has been living in England since 1992. Because birth certificates are not commonly drawn up in the region’s rural territories, Singh has to rely on other Indian documents and a UK passport to prove his age. His trainer Harmander Singh said although Guinness is not intentionally racist, “they are clearly and deliberately saying that a birth certificate is important”.
Responding to allegations of racism, Guinness maintained its stance around acceptable forms of evidence for age vis-à-vis a statement on Friday: “Guinness World Records is aware of the complexities of sourcing such documentation in India. However, as keepers and arbiters of record-breaking for over 50 years, Guinness World Records must honour its duty to maintain records with proof of evidence.”
Singh, who does not speak English, communicated through his trainer that he had not even heard of the Guinness Book of World Records until recently. He remains unperturbed by the controversy and said he would rather focus on his passion for running. The sprightly old man, who is somewhat of a local celebrity, ran his last marathon on Sunday but plans to continue jogging as part of his daily routine.
He told the Telegraph he doesn’t know how to read but thrives on inspiring the people around him. “The day I stop running, my body will stop altogether and that will be the end of me.”
Sabrina Siddiqui is the editor-in-chief of Divanee.com.