But here’s some genuine keister kicking:
- An 82-year-old nun completes the grueling Hawaii Iron Man triathalon.
- A 93-year-old track star holds more world records than anyone else.
- A 101-year-old runner finishes the London Marathon last month.
Who are these amazing athletes and what do they have in common?
Sister Madonna Buder: “The Iron Nun”
At age 23, Madonna Buder (b. 1930) followed her first calling and became a nun. She found her second one at age 48, when her spiritual counselor advised that she take up running as a way of tweaking, “mind, body, and spirit.”
At 55, she completed her first triathalon. Since then, she’s participated in more than 340, including 45 Iron Man Distances. (The Iron Man consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run.)
She finished the 2012 Hawaii Iron Man just a few days ago at age 82. Lance Armstrong won, so that tells you about the company she keeps.
Sister Madonna once questioned whether it was proper for a nun to compete in races, but not anymore. She concluded, “You don’t need to apologize for the gifts you’ve been given. Only apologize for not using them.”
Olga Kotelko: “Olga The Magnificent”
At age 93, Olga Kotelko (b. 1919) flings hammers, hurls javelins, and leaps long jump pits in a single bound. She holds more track and field records than any other competitor.
Olga grew up in Saskatchewan, the seventh of 11 children. As a child, she played softball when she wasn’t milking the cows or slopping the pigs. As an adult, she escaped an unhappy marriage, became a teacher, and raised her two daughters alone while earning a college degree at night.
Olga rediscovered softball after her girls left home and played until age 77. But she needed a bigger challenge. A teammate suggested track-and-field. She found a trainer and now holds more than 30 world records.
“I will keep doing my track and field until I drop,” Olga says.
Fauja Singh: “The Turbaned Tornado”
For 84 years, Fauja Singh (b. 1911) lived simply in a small Punjabi village with his extended family. Then, within a short time, he lost his wife and a younger son. Fauja moved to London in 1995 to stay with his oldest son.
Depressed and in a strange country, he searched for a reason to keep living. “I wanted to escape my world of gloom and running seemed to be the only option.”
Fauja made news when he finished the 2000 London Marathon (his first one) at age 89, breaking a previous record. In 2004, he starred in an Adidas advertising campaign alongside David Beckham and Muhammad Ali.
As a Sikh, Fauja Singh has been a vegetarian his whole life. He considers diet and attitude the secret to his longevity. “I keep my mind fresh and try to be happy from within…I run while talking to God.”
What Do These Keister Kickers Have in Common?
First, they’ve fully embraced their individuality. They received those monikers from the press and athletic community who saw their essence: “The Iron Nun,” “The Magnificent,” “The Turbaned Tornado.”
Second, they found activity while searching for meaning, then the activity created meaning. In the last installment of Ageless Athletes, my friend Daniela commented that her fitness breakthrough occurred when she committed to exercise as a daily spiritual practice.
Scientists have begun to suspect intense training may be the key to cellular renewal in older athletes, but I suspect a kind of individual super-attitude that borders on spirituality also contributes.
Where does that leave you and me?
Start small where you are, and embrace yourself fully. Let those little moments bring you back to your body, and who knows to where from there!