Every time you feel like giving up or think it’s "too late" to start something new, think of Ida Keeling. The 100-year-old runner didn’t start racing until she was in her 60s and now is a reigning national champion. She currently holds the fastest time for American women ages 95 to 99 in the 60-meter dash, 29.86 seconds, and this weekend will compete in the 100-meter event at Penn Relays.
"You see so many older people just sitting around-well, that’s not me," she says in a New York Times profile. "Time marches on, but I keep going."
In addition to her athletic accomplishments, Ida has spent her century-long life showing resilience. As a young girl, the Harlem native had to set aside sports to take on a series of jobs like washing windows and babysitting during the Great Depression. At 42, she lost her husband to a heart attack and raised four kids on her own in a one-bedroom apartment in a housing project. She worked as a seamstress, and as the civil rights movement started picking up she took an activist role. Depression took over when two of her sons succumbed to drug addiction and, eventually, passed away too. It took a toll on her health.
That’s when she found running with the help of her daughter, Shelley, and signed up for her first 5K race. More races followed and she has even traveled abroad for competitions, often the only one in her age group racing. She keeps up a regimen of daily hourlong exercise and healthy eating (limited meat, fresh grains, dessert rarely, no preservatives). She does, however, take shots of Hennessy, comparing it to "putting gas in the car."
As for words of wisdom, Ida advises us to "get up and do things even if you don’t feel like it." She says, "Sometimes you don’t feel like doing this, that or the other. Do the thing that you don’t like to do first and get rid of it."
We’ll be cheering you on, Ida.