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The headline caught my eye: “103-year-old woman runs 100-yard dash in competition.” Really? I thought. Maybe that’s a typo. After reading the article again, I realized it was true. Last month in Albuquerque, N.M., Julia Hawkins competed in the 50- and 100-meter dashes at the National Senior Games. In fact, she’s the first person to run the 100-meter dash in the Senior Games.

Officials recorded Julia’s time at 21.06 seconds in the 50-meter event and 46 seconds in the 100-meter dash. She has earned the nickname “Hurricane” and is often quoted in the news. Her son, Lad Hawkins, affectionately refers to her as “a little old lady in tennis shoes.”

Julia traveled from her home in Baton Rouge, La., to participate in the Senior Games. She’s a retired teacher and lives in her own home on an acre of land. From what I have read, she exemplifies the ideal approach to longevity, setting a high standard with an active, healthy lifestyle and mindset. Julia keeps busy taking care of 30 bonsai bushes, exercising every day and going to lunch with friends. She doesn’t drink or smoke.

Living an active lifestyle isn’t something new for Julia. She competed as a cyclist into her 80s and then one of her children suggested she take up running. Although Julia attributes her leg, back, and hip strength to cycling, it’s her eyesight that worries her. As quoted in an Albuquerque newspaper, “I’m hoping I can see well enough to stay in the lines.”

Julia’s life illustrates the same things found in medical research on health and longevity. In fact, a very recent study by the American Heart Association found that the healthiest adults exercise at least 150 minutes per week on a regular basis. Reading about Julia’s 100-meter dash, I thought, ‘Julia has found her calling on the track.’ In one news article, she states that she “hopes she’s inspiring people to be healthy and to realize you can still be doing it at this kind of an age.”

During the summer Olympics in Rio, 62-year old Julie Brougham from New Zealand competed in the sport of equestrian dressage. Actress Geena Davis almost made it to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney at age 42 in archery. These days, it seems commonplace to see adults in their 70s and 80s in 5K and 10K races as well as cycling competitions, on ski slopes and in marathons.

At age 67, Ida Keeling lost her two sons to drug-related violence in Harlem, N.Y. One day, her daughter took Ida out on a short run, and as it turns out, she enjoyed it so much she kept on going. Ida is now 104 and participates in sprint competitions. “I’m always the winner for my age group, since I’m the only one!” She says she has no intention of slowing down and her doctor says her health is like that of a 25-year old.

Some people use age as a ‘measuring stick’, but I would guess that Julia and Ida don’t think of age that way. It’s their attitude and mindset which count, not a number reflecting a biological fact.

Julie Richman is a freelance writer, project manager and consultant. She and her family have lived on Colorado Springs’ northeast side for 21 years. Contact Julie at woodmennotes@pikespeaknewspapers.com.

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