Race Against Time: Never Retire

Miss Ida Keeling did not begin to run until she was a senior citizen, but she is better late than never. Now at age 102, the Harlem born and raised Keeling continues to set world records in the 60 meter and 100-meter dash when she competes. In her new book, Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in a Race Against Time (Zondervan), Keeling shares a life filled with personal pain, incredible resiliency, and inspiration for all.

When and how did you get into running?
I started running at age 67 after my two sons were murdered two years and eight months apart. I was in a deep depression, just a hole, I was lost.

Was running hard for you at first?
Running was never hard for me. I ran a lot as a child in normal play situations. As a young adult, I would take my children on weekends to visit relatives. This was one to two-mile walks. My first competitive race was a 5k. I didn’t know at the time that this was 3.1 miles, but I was able to finish; I was tired, but I finished!

When did you think that running was something you wanted to do for the rest of your life?
After the first race, I felt so good that I knew I wanted to continue. I figured I would go as long as I could. When I was 99, I told my doctor that I might n‎ot run anymore. He said, “Why? There’s nothing wrong with you.”.So I continued and set a few more world records.

How often do you exercise? Can you tell us what your routine is like?
I ride my stationary bike. I have my weights and mat at home,‎ where I exercise and stretch. Even before I get out of bed in the morning, I do certain exercises to get me moving. I go to the gym a couple of times a week for aerobics class. When I am training for a race, I go to the Armory and train with my daughter. She’s my coach.   I try to do something everyday.  Now that I am 102, I get tired very quickly, so it’s better for me to exercise three times in a day, sometimes for 15 or 20 minutes, than to try to do it all at once. When I go to a class, I have to come home and go to bed (laughs).

What is your normal diet like?
Normal diet for me is lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, a lot of green vegetables. I eat my big meal in the morning, so like my meat and fish with vegetables and sweet potatoes. At night, I eat oatmeal ‎or raisin bran. I only eat whole wheat bread and pasta and brown rice—no white flour or white sugar. No salt in anything, I like the natural flavors of the food to come together. I do use cloves, bay leaves and oregano. I cook with olive oil. ‎I have to bend these rules a little when I eat in restaurants, but I usually eat at home.

Any other dietary secrets?
Back in 1972, my doctor suggested that I have a shot of Hennessy each day for my poor circulation, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Sometimes, I put it in my coffee in the morning to have with my meal. Or sometimes, I will have a little Port instead for my iron poor, tired blood.

Did you ever think when you started running that you would set world records?
The thought of setting world records never entered my mind. I was very happy with medals and trophies. World records are a bonus.

At 102, do you experience a lot of injuries or pain when you run?
Not so much when I run, but when I am still, that’s when my arthritis bothers me. You have to keep moving. Use it or lose it! To deal with it, I take cod liver oil every morning. My mother gave it to us as children, and I gave it to my children.

What would you say is the main reason that you continue to live such a long, happy and active life?
The key to living long is to love yourself. God first, me second. If things or people in my life are not working out, I cut them loose. I think people must do what they need to do, not what they want to do. They must eat for nutrition, not for taste, and do some form of exercise every day.

What advice would you have for seniors, or to anyone, who hasn’t done any physical activity in a while.
I would say to seniors or to any one, get up off your rear end and get moving. Believe in yourself. Be strong!

Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in a Race Against Time (Zondervan) is available at




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