Overcoming the Limits Placed on You By Others

Their limits don’t have to be your limits — defying expectations

Jim Farina


Hong Kong Fauja Singh by Prachatai

I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you’re not in this world to live up to mine — Bruce Lee

Fauja Singh is something of a miracle and one of the most notable runners in history. Singh is the world’s oldest marathoner. He wasn’t born with a traditional athletic build. Fauja’s legs were so skinny and weak that he couldn’t walk until age five.

Fauja grew up in a farming village in India and was often teased by other kids. They called him “danda,” the Punjabi name for a stick. In time, Fauja grew fit and healthy. He married, fathered six children, and had a farm of his own. It was a good life, whole and fulfilling, but not without its challenges.

When in his mid-eighties, Fauja witnessed the loss of his fifth son, Kuldip, in a construction accident. His wife had passed away a few years earlier. His other children had left India long before these losses. Fauja felt lonely and lost. He moved to England to live with some of his remaining family.

He began running with some fellow Punjabi ex-pats. He found it helped him cope with his grief. Running gave him purpose, and he was very good at it for his age. His lifelong farmwork had helped to keep him in shape. He occasionally challenged other seniors, and he always won.

One day, Fauja saw a marathon on TV. He didn’t know exactly what the race was about, but he liked what he saw and wanted to compete. Even though he enjoyed running, it seemed like a stretch to prepare for a 26.2-mile trek. Fauja was determined. He found a coach to train him. Several months later, he finished the London Marathon in under 7 hours.

Since then, Fauja’s made global headlines. He ran eight more marathons. He’s broken several world records, including being the first one-hundred-year-old to finish a marathon. Fauja’s last competitive race was a 10k in 2013, just before turning 102. Singh is now retired but still runs for fun at the age of 111.

Fauja said, “All my life, people set limitations on me. They said I would never walk. They said I would never farm. They certainly thought I would never set records with my running. No…