I’m a baby compared to Fauja Singh - wheelchair user is inspired to do London Marathon by Ilford’s 102-year-old runner

Gary Donald is doing the London Marathon in a race wheelchair.

Gary Donald is doing the London Marathon in a race wheelchair. - Credit: Archant

A South Woodford father-of-two who cannot use his legs will power his wheelchair through the London Marathon with Ilford’s 102-year-old runner Fauja Singh for inspiration.

(l-r) Rajpal Padam; Dr Manpreet Sahemey; Tessa Sanderson; Harmander Singh; and Jaspreet Kaur Lall

(l-r) Rajpal Padam; Dr Manpreet Sahemey; Tessa Sanderson; Harmander Singh; and Jaspreet Kaur Lall - Credit: Archant

Gary Donald, 58, of Maybank Road, didn’t take part in any sports for the last 20 years and has been in a wheelchair since 1990 because he has a spinal condition.

But he said he feels like a “baby” compared to Fauja who is known around the world for his marathon-running exploits and who completed his sixth London Marathon in 2012 aged 101.

He said: “People are quite surprised I’m doing it [the marathon] at 58.

“What’s pushed me on is Fauja Singh. He was running at 101 and he’s only just retired.”

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Gary will take part in the taxing 26-mile race for the first time and has borrowed a race wheelchair from the Velocity Wheelchair Racing Club, which six-times Paralympic gold-medallist David Weir started at.

Gary has spinal arteriovenous malformation which causes spinal tissue to die because of a lack of oxygen and he has already taken on the 26-mile distance in practice runs to Regents Park in central London and back.

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He said: “It’s all arms. In some way it’s easier [than running the marathon] but your arm muscles are much smaller than your leg muscles so there’s a sort of balance.”

He will be cheered on by his wife Barbara and his 29-year-old daughter Jemima and is raising money for the wheelchair club at www.justgiving.com/Gary-Donald1.

And the man who helped Fauja Singh become a global sensation will also be rising to the challenge of the London course – for the 29th time in a row.

Harmander Singh, 53, of Wellesley Road, Ilford, coached the Turbaned Tornado, as Fauja is known.

Harmander has been preparing five other runners from the Sikhs in the City group for the challenge, with Jaspreet Kaur Lall, a 29-year-old dentist from Ilford and Manpreet Kaur Sahemey, a 31-year-old doctor from Redbridge, taking part for the first time.

All three took part in the East London Half Marathon in West Ham Park yesterday and met Olympic gold medallist Tessa Sanderson.

The coach, who is running for three charities, said: “It gets more exciting each year. I look forward to doing it.

“The London Marathon is the best in the world. It’s so well organised, so friendly, it’s my local and I’ve got to be proud of it.”

Jaimie Sinclair, 33, of Taunton Close, Hainault, is running for the Lymphoma Association because his friend’s wife had the cancer and he is taking her place after she became pregnant.

Leanne Silver was due to take part after getting the all-clear a couple of years ago, but is now expecting her third child.

Her husband Marc, 35, of Harlow, Essex, will also run for the charity.

Jaimie said: “The support has been so excellent we just wanted to raise some money for the charity to say thank you for that.”

Visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/2men to donate.

And Eve Conway-Ghazi, the district governor of Rotary In London and one of our Young Citizen judges, is well on the way to her fundraising goal of £3,000.

She is supporting an appeal with Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland and charity WheelPower to provide sports wheel chairs for newly disabled people.

The Rotary Clubs of Redbridge and Gants Hill have already donated £2,150 between them.

Visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/EveConway

to donate.

A former pupil at Valentines High School in Cranbrook Road, Ilford, has been training by running back and forth along her 75 foot garden path.

Natalie Silverstone, who grew up in Glenham Drive, Gants Hill, and who now lives in Loughton, wanted to train but couldn’t leave her 13-year-old autistic son Cameron.

So she hit on the solution of preparing with laps in her garden and will now get to run on the more scenic London route for the National Autistic Society.

The 45-year-old said: “They’ve been really supportive to my family.”

To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/nataliesilverstone.

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