103 and Still Winning: Life Advice from Ms. Ida Keeling

Photo Credits: Well, The New York Times

103 year old Ida Keeling was always racing to keep pace with what life threw at her. Born and raised in Harlem during the Great Depression, Keeling’s life was never easy. Her mother died when she was young, and her husband died when she was only 42, leaving her to raise four kids by herself. Since then she has worked hard to keep her family going.

She hit rock-bottom at 67 years of age, when her two sons died due to drug-related violence. She told Allure in an interview “I felt like everything was gone. I couldn’t work it out.” Her daughter, Shelley, also devastated, not only by her brothers' deaths, but by the state of her mother, decided to take action by taking Keeling on a ‘mini-run’. She said in an interview “I picked her up one morning and said 'You’re coming with me.' I bought her an extra pair of sneakers, she finished the 5k and the rest is history.” Ida said that, as she was running, she just kept thinking “I gotta get out of this rut, I gotta get out."... and she did.

Now the 5ft 9in 'tour de force' has taken the world by storm. In 2011 she achieved the world record for being the first woman over 100 years of age to run 60m at 29.86 seconds. In 2014, she was the fastest 99 year old woman to do the 100m dash at 59.8 seconds. It doesn’t stop there, no; Ms Ida Keeling was the first woman to complete 100m at age 100 in 1.17.33 seconds in the Penn Relays, back in 2016. Not only did she finish strong, she completed the race by doing pushups! If that isn’t inspiration then I don’t know what is.

So. You might be thinking: how does she do it? If there’s one thing Ms Keeling has proved it’s that it is never too late. Not only is she a little lightning bolt on the track but, being 103, she is also full of wisdom. One thing that really struck the world is her positivity. She said in an interview “Everyday is another day forward. You have to stay strong, love yourself and do what you need to do, not what you want to do.” Even if you’re going through the worst of times, Keeling has proved that you just have to keep going and it will work out. In 2016 she fell and broke her femur; “That was terrible, but I said, 'Well, I got to get up from here'. I’ve been doing so well; I just won’t over do it.” This proves that no matter how old you are, no matter what is happening in your life, you can always keep going.

Even after all her success and fame, Ida remains modest: “I was just exercising, and now I’m all over the world.” She wrote a book called 'Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down', an inspiring and motivational read, which I would recommend to everyone - all genders, all ages. In the book she explains all her secrets to keeping fit and healthy. Keeling claims to work out 3 to 4 days a week, including a dance class. Her diet includes greens, fruits and cod liver oil, for joint health. A few times a week she’ll add a shot of Hennessy to her coffee! (Although it might sound cheeky she does it to aid her circulation). She stays on it! Even when she’s cleaning and cooking she manages to fit in squats. Ms Keeling really is a perfect role model for women and men everywhere. There is one thing that particularly struck me, and that is her pride... the a perfect note to end on: “Everything I’ve got is mine, I’m the owner and that makes me feel stronger. If you give give up, shame on you.” Absolutely Ida. Absolutely.