Running Centenarians with a Zest for Life

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Running centenarians with a zest for life. Running Centenarians with a Zest for Life

With the 2016 average worldwide life expectancy for males and females calculated at 67 years and 71.1 years, respectively, living to a 100 is just a pipe dream for many. But, for a handful of blessed souls, living for more than a century is very much a reality. Not only have they celebrated their 100th birthdays in style, but they continue to celebrate life on a daily basis through running. Uhm, what? Yes, it’s true. There’s a group of running centenarians, or living legends, if you will, who can teach all of us a thing or two about running and life.

Julia Hawkins

And if you think that you have to run for most of your life in order to get to 100, think again. Julia Hawkins, a 101-year old great-grandma who is also an avid cyclist, took up running at the ripe age of 100. And she’s not just tottering around the block. She’s rewriting the record books.

Hawkins, who was the oldest person to compete in the USA Track and Field Outdoors Masters Championships in 2017, clocked a 40.12 for the 100 m dash at the event. And, as impressive as this time may be, it’s not her PB. She previously recorded a 39.62 for the same distance – an age-group world record.

So what is her secret? What can we learn from this spunky, 101-year old champion?

  • Stay active. In addition to practicing her 100 m runs up and down her street, Hawkins cycles on a daily basis. She’s also a passionate gardener, and spends hours tending the garden of her home in Louisiana.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Hawkins credits a healthy diet as one of her keys to longevity.
  • Get enough rest (and keep your sense of humor!). Hawkins’ soft spot for afternoon naps is no secret. Much to the delight of her fans, she exclaimed the following after her performance at the Masters Outdoor Championships earlier this year: “I missed my nap for this!”.
  • Build a strong support system and get your priorities straight. According to Hawkins, her children inspire her to do her best. She also feels that a good marriage and supportive children are two of the biggest blessings in life. Says Hawkins: “You can’t ask for much more than that”.

Orville Rogers

On 28 November 2017, Orville Rogers celebrated his 100th birthday. And while most centennial celebrations revolve around cake, conversations and tea, his was different. He celebrated with a 100-mile relay around White Rock Lake in Texas with friends and family. Various members of his family, as well as close friends, ran different legs of this relay, whereafter everyone joined Rogers for the final mile.

But why celebrate one’s 100th birthday in this way? Because running is what Rogers loves. After taking up running in his fifties, he went on to clock 13 age-group world records over distances that range from 60 m right up to 3 000 m. And no, he didn’t clock all of these records in his 50s. One of his most memorable victories to date has to be coming from behind to defeat his old running rival, 92-year old Dixon Hemphill, in the 60 m dash at the age of 99.

So what can we learn from Rogers’ life as a runner?

  • You’re never too old to start. Most people who take up an activity at the age of 50 never even dream of breaking world records. Rogers is living proof that it’s possible.
  • You’re never too old to dream. Most people would think that a centenarian with 13 world age-group records under his belt would seriously consider retiring. Not Rogers. He’s already planning to enter the following events at the 2018 USATF Masters Indoor Track and Field Championships to be held in March 2018 in Landover, Maryland: The 60 m dash, 100 m dash, 200 m, 400 m, 800 m and 1 500 m.
  • Visualize your success. According to Rogers, he started visualizing success in whatever race he participates in years ago. He credits many of his race victories to this process, coupled with consistent training.
  • Never outrun the joy of running. So why does this centenarian still choose to participate in running events? In his own words: “I compete at these events for the joy of running”.

Fauja Singh

And while he lacks an official birth certificate, this list wouldn’t be complete without including Fauja Singh. At the age of 100 (or so it is claimed), Singh completed the Toronto Marathon in a time of 8 hours and 11 minutes. His marathon PB for the 90+ age bracket is, however, significantly faster. He clocked an extremely impressive 5 hour 40 minute finish at the 2003 Toronto Marathon at the age of 92, putting many competitors half his age to shame. And while Singh has clocked an impressive string of records over an equally impressive range of distances throughout his life, few of it has been ratified due to the absence of a valid birth certificate.

Learn from the Legends

So even if you don’t get to live to be a 100, like these three inspirational individuals, learn from their lives and make the most of the time that you’re given. Take good care of yourself. Exercise, follow a nourishing, wholesome diet and get enough rest. Cherish your marriage and your children. Build strong, healthy relationships. And remember to always keep your sense of humor.