Sprinting at 95

February 23rd, 2011

By David Muir & Joel Siegel: Ida Keeling is a 4-foot-6, 83-pound bundle of wonder, a woman defying the conventions of age. She takes only one prescription drug, and recalls names and dates with the speed of someone half her age.

Active and healthy and living alone in her Bronx, N.Y., apartment, she could pass for 75. She says she feels even younger. “Like a puppy,” she declares. “I feel younger now than when I was in my 30s and 40s and had all those problems. Then I was aged!”

Over her long life, Keeling has endured the kind of heartbreak and hardship that could grind anyone down. Her mother passed away when she was a child, and her husband died suddenly of a heart attack when he was just 42. She lost two sons, Charles and Donald, to drug-related killings in 1979 and 1981.

In running, Keeling found a refuge. Her daughter, Shelley Keeling, who is a lawyer and real estate investor and coaches track and field at a nearby high school, convinced her to go on a “mini-run” when her mother was 67. Two years later, Ida Keeling ran a 5K race, and she’s been running ever since.

“It felt good, and I felt uplifted. I said, ‘Well, gee, this is for me,”‘ she said. The medals and trophies crowding the bookshelves in her home document her success on the track. “This one’s from France, this one — I think is from Georgia,” she said, pointing out each one. Setting world records is getting to be old hat for Keeling. Three years ago, she set the record for fastest sprint in the 90-and-over age group.

Keeling said she is not sure how much longer she will run, although she said she hopes to “make it to 108,” which would give her four more years than her father’s mother, who lived until the age of 104. “Every year I am going to keep doing what I am doing, and when running time comes, if I feel I am ready, I will go at it,” Keeling said.


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