Doing squats and drinking a daily dose of cognac are only some of Ida Keeling’s health secrets

By Catherine Orda | Lead photo from Instagram

In 1983, Ida Keeling lost her two sons to drug-related violence. She was 67 then, and the still unsolved cases of her sons’ deaths compounded with decades spent as a single mother working in factories during the Great Depression deflated her spirit. Much like the times, Keeling fell into a deep depression herself.

“The wicked lie that the past is always tense and the future, perfect,” Zadie Smith wrote. The truth of that statement lies in the treatment of the absolute as default: The past can be tense, but not always; there is no perfection, even in the future. Keeling believes that the past is “sometimes kind, sometimes horrible and miserable. Feeling miserable slows you down. I don’t like to slow down. I want to be ready to move.”

This belief—this curt rejection of the absolute and refusal to remain in paralyzing stasis—was, in many ways, how Keeling turned to running to save herself. Now 102 years old, she became the first woman over 100 years old to complete the 100-meter dash event in the 2016 Penn Relays.

Let me just say Something…If This doesn’t Inspire & Motivate Someone I don’t know what will!! #CantStopWontStop #WhatDeterminationLooksLike #GetYoSelfHealthyAndLiving #bosslady #healthylifestyle #Repost @prettygirlssweat with @get_repost ・・・ Looking for someone to be inspired by for #womenshistorymonth? Look no further… read below and swipe left 👉🏾💕💦 —/// via @runnersworldmag: At the 2016 Penn Relays, Ida Keeling ran the 100-meter dash in 1 minute and 17.33 seconds to set the world record for women age 100 to 104—then dropped to the track to do pushups as the crowd roared. —/// In her new book, “Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down”, Keeling, now 102, talks about thrilling moments like this, but also her struggles: growing up poor in Harlem, working in factories during the Great Depression to raise four kids as a single mother, and losing two adult sons to unsolved cases of drug-related violence. —/// Since then, the 4-foot-6, 83-pound dynamo has raced all over the world and set multiple world records. “Every day is another day forward,” Keeling says. #Shero —/// 📹: @bodyilove —/// #prettygirlssweat #fitnessgoals #pennrelays2016 #idakeeling

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Beginnings and World Records

Upon her daughter’s insistence, the then-67-year-old joined a local 5K. With a brand new pair of sneakers, Keeling finished the race and hasn’t stopped since then. She’s competed in races worldwide, setting multiple Masters records in 60-meter and 100-meter distances for women in the 95-99 and 100-plus age groups. “I was just exercising, but now I’m all over the world.”

Running as Medicine

Keeling’s uncomplicated resolve is proof that the depth of experience every passionate runner can attest to remains strong regardless of age. “Running to me is like medicine,” she says. It’s definitely kept her strong and healthy, as after setting the world record for women age 100-104 in the 2016 Penn Relays (clocking in at one minute and 17.33 seconds in the 100-meter dash event), she dropped to the ground to do push-ups. This passion for activity, for movement, is deeply embedded in Keeling who makes sure to work out three to four times a week, which includes a dance class at her gym. When it comes to diets, she sticks to a healthy variety of greens, fruits, cod liver oil, and interestingly enough, a shot of cognac in her morning coffee, cautioning runners to “eat for nutrition, not for taste.”

Advice to Runners

The fact of a 102-year old track and field athlete is enough inspiration in itself, but you’ll find that this is only the beginning should you decide to read more about Keeling’s story. (She’s written a biography titled Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down). She’s often asked for advice on running, and we found that what she had to say were both practical and inspiring: “Stay strong, love yourself, and do what you need to do, not what you want to do,” and had just the right amount of wit and wisdom: “If you give up on yourself, shame on you.”