Ida Keeling is unstoppable. Even now, as she turns 105, I don’t even think she could stop if she wanted to.

In 2011, at 95 years old, Keeling set the world record in her age group for running 60 meters at 29.86 seconds. In 2014 at the tender age of 99-years-old, the sprinter set the world record for the 100-meter dash at the 2014 Games in her age group at 59.80 seconds. In 2016, just before her 101st birthday, she set the world record for the number of push-ups in her age bracket and broke her own world record in the 100-meter dash. She also became another world record sprinter at the age of 103!

Like I said, she’s unstoppable!

Family tragedy

Ida Keeling’s mother died when she was young and her husband died of a heart attack when she was 42. She had at least three children, until two of them, Charles and Donald, died in 1979 and 1981 respectively.

“I’ve never felt a pain so deep,” Ms. Keeling recalled, her voice lowering to a whisper. “I couldn’t make sense of any of it and things began to fall apart.”

As Ms. Keeling fell into a deep depression, her own health began to fail. Her blood pressure went up to dangerous levels at 206/106. She sunk into a deep depression. Ida’s daughter saw this and the image of her once-vital mother in such despair shook her to the core, so she decided to do something for her mum. As a lifelong track-and-field athlete whose trophies fill an entire room of her apartment, the daughter intervened with the way of healing most familiar to her: running.

Ida Keeling
Photo: Runner’s World


A hobby to help heal

Her daughter, Shelley Keeling, is a lawyer and real estate investor who upon seeing her mother depressed and downtrodden due to the loss of her sons, convinced Ida to run in a “mini-run” at the age of 67. Ida has continued to participate in track and field ever since.

“It was trial by fire,” recalled Shelley. “Based on where she was emotionally, it just had to be.”

It had been decades since Ida had last gone running. The two women took off together, but the younger Ms. Keeling soon darted to the front of the pack as her mother drifted far behind. After a suspenseful respite, she was relieved to see her mother scamper across the finish line, barely out of breath.

“Good Lord, I thought that race was never going to end, but afterwards I felt free,” Ms. Keeling recalled. “I just threw off all of the bad memories, the aggravation, the stress.”

So began the career of the runner, Ida Keeling, we all know and love. It was then that she didn’t give up. Day after day. Walk after walk. Run after run. She became more and more dedicated.

Ida’s 4-feet-6 inch and 83-pound self across the finish line and said, “My doctor told me that I’m as healthy as a healthy 20 year old. I feel like I’m a winner.” How many great-great grandmother’s do you know would even come close to finishing a 100 meter race?  When asked why she runs, she says she’s “running from old age.”

Ida Keeling
Photo: Image Source: Runner’s World (L); Today (R)


‘Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down’

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. She stays on it! Even when she’s cleaning and cooking she manages to fit in squats.


Article first published on 15 May 2020.

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