Quietly, over the past few months, records have been shattered and unthinkable barriers have been broken. The stories are easy to miss, a blurb in a local paper, perhaps a quick mention in the national news arena. Maybe they are even easier to DISmiss as “flukes” accomplished by “freaks of nature.” But there is likely more to it than that.
At the USA Track and Field Masters Indoor Championships in March, Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins had the crowd on their feet as she set the world record for the 60-meter-dash in the 100-plus age group. At 102, Julia crossed the line in 24.79 seconds. What motives her? She told reporters “I just like the feeling of being independent and doing something a little different and testing myself, trying to get better. I want to please my family is the other thing.”
Her incredible feat was matched by 100-year-old Orville Rogers who set a new record in the 100+ age group himself. A World War II bomber pilot, Orville took up running at the age of 50. He is quoted as saying “How wonderful it is, how great it is, to be alive. I really enjoy life.”
Meanwhile in the pool, 99-year-old George Corones broke the world record for the 50-meter freestyle in the 100-104 age group earlier this year (he qualifies based on his birthdate, turning 100 inside the official cutoff). George gave up swimming over 60 years ago and returned to it at the age of 80 “purely for the exercise.” He often quips that “doing less is a step backwards.”
And then there is Madonna Buder, “The Iron Nun” who at 87 years old still competes in Ironman races. That’s 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking, and 26.2 miles running. Sister Buder is a catholic nun who has competed in more than 340 triathlon races including 45 full Ironman competitions. When asked about her training and racing, she often repeats her belief in the 5 D’s: “First, you have to Dream about whatever it is you want to do to fire up the second "D," which is Desire. Then you need to acquire the Discipline and put forth the Dedication that will keep you Determined to do what you set out to do.”
The fact that these age groups even exist today is remarkable, that they are populated by multiple athletes, not just one or two, shows that they are not flukes. More of us will become centurions than ever before. What we make of those extra years may be determined more by our state of mind than our physical state. There are lessons for all of us to take away from these stories, instead of dismissing them as anomalies. The people behind these stories have some things in common: an insatiable desire to learn, grow and challenge themselves, the belief that age is not a limiting factor and that life never stops offering incredible gifts if you stay open to accepting them.
National Geographic: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/04/file-expetancy-map