This 103-Year-Old Runner Shares Her Top Longevity Secret

Senior Olympic athlete Julia Hawkins shares how being active led to her becoming a record-breaking sports phenom.

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- Posted on Aug 9, 2019

Julia Hawkins at the 2019 National Senior Games

Julia Hawkins has always led an adventure-filled life, which is why the fame she’s gained now—at the ripe age of 103-years-old—seems humorous…and a bit puzzling.

“All kinds of things have happened in my life, besides running and breaking world records,” Hawkins tells Guideposts.org.

The records she’s referring to are her recent wins at the 2019 Senior Olympic Games, the biennial competition opened to athletes 50 and older. Hawkins, who’s competed in the games for years, came away with two gold medals after running in the 50- and 100-meter dashes. The Louisiana native had already set world records for the 100- and 60- meter dashes just two years earlier.

It’s a feat made even more impressive once Hawkins reveals that she picked up running just three years ago, at 100 years of age.

Hawkins had competed as a cyclist in the Senior Olympics before changes to the course forced her to step away from the bike. She still loves going for a ride in her downtime, but she wanted to continue to push herself, which is why running caught her eye.

“I thought it was fun,” Hawkins says.  “It was just fabulous to see these men and women exerting themselves, old as they were, keeping trim and keeping going.”

Hawkins credits her physical health to an active lifestyle.

“As you get older, everything gets weaker,” she explains. “I just happen to have pretty good knees and hips from biking and from being active all my life.”

That active life is something Hawkins has been cultivating since her youth. Her parents ran a summer resort on the river, about 60 miles from New Orleans. There, she taught campers how to fish, paddle and swim, eventually managing her own camp, becoming a Girl Scout leader and teaching school once the season ended. She also taught in Honduras one year and spent her free time horseback riding and playing golf. Once she married her late husband—by telephone when he was stationed in Pearl Harbor—the pair traveled together, spending their courtship outdoors before starting a family.

“It's been an adventurous life and an active one,” Hawkins says. “I've been always doing something.”

The secret, for Hawkins at least, has been in finding what she lovingly refers to as “magic moments.” She writes about them in her book, It’s Been Wondrous: The Memoirs of Julia Welles Hawkins.

“It’s [when] you see something or feel something or hear something that affects you very much,” Hawkins explains, citing a compliment from a friend or hearing a beautiful piece of music as two recent personal examples. “Magic moments are still big in my life. There are lots of wonderful things out there and people need to be aware and search them out. They're there to see.”

For Hawkins, sharing her life story and her formula for living a long, happy life is just a way to keep inspiring people of all ages to pursue their passions, challenge themselves and keep exploring.

“I'm an inspiration to people, and if I'm that, I'm so glad,” Hawkins says. “I feel like, if I've done nothing in life, I've shown people that you can keep going…even at 103. Don't give up. Keep them moving.”

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