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103-year-old woman breaks running record, shares life advice

TODAY logo TODAY 6/20/2019 Meghan Holohan
a girl with a ball on a court: oldest American woman in track and field © Courtesy Brit Huckabay/NSGA oldest American woman in track and field

When Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins turned 100 years old she stopped biking and started running. She knew she’d be a good runner because she had a lot of practice sprinting to pick up phone calls to her landline.

Now at 103, she knows her suspicions were right: She won gold in the 50- and 100-meter races at the National Senior Games this week and set their record for the oldest woman to compete — and win!

"I always came running in to answer the phone so I thought maybe I could run," she told TODAY. “I’m so glad it’s over. I love running but, boy, it hangs over your head.”

a person on a court: oldest American woman in track and field © Courtesy Brit Huckabay/NSGA oldest American woman in track and field

Throughout her life, Hawkins was an avid bike rider and gardener. She has dozens of bonsai trees on her acre of land in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“I would ride my bike every day and as I got older someone would go with me,” she explained. “I decided to quit after I had one fall and dislocated my elbow.”

When biking became too challenging, she wanted to replace it with another activity and picked up running. Soon after, she started running at 100, she broke several world records.

“I don’t train like most runners. I just keep active and do lots of things," she said.

a person holding a bicycle: oldest American woman in track and field © Courtesy Julia Hawkins oldest American woman in track and field

While she doesn’t run regularly, she bends and stretches every day and walks around her property to tend to her plants. She has lived in the same house since she and her husband, Murray, built it after World War II, when he became a physics professor at nearby Louisiana State University.

Hawkins always enjoyed being active. When she was younger, she ran a summer camp for girls during the war, taught elementary school and was a Girl and Boy Scout leader for her four children.

“All my life I have done something like that,” she said. “You just keep active.”

She credits her success in life with her marriage of 70 years. While Murray passed away at 95, she believes she has enjoyed such a great life because she lived with such a supportive partner. She says marrying a good man is the secret to a long happy relationship.

“Marry someone that you not only love, but you like and you admire and respect,” she said. “Life has just been great for me. I wouldn’t change much.”

Pat Boone et al. smiling for the camera: oldest American woman in track and field © Courtesy Brit Huckabay/NSGA oldest American woman in track and field

Yet, Hawkins remains humble about her record breaking runs.

“If I am an inspiration to older people … That’s a good thing,” she said. “Don’t stop. You can still do things when you get older. Just keep moving and be interested in things.”

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