My grandma friend, Jan, is in great shape. During the fifteen years we worked together, she ran the hills on her lunch hour. Several years ago she ran the Leukemia Marathon. Recently, she attended the Senior Games at Stanford University. I invited her to share some of her impressions…Donne
Birthdays have never bothered me—until the big SIX-O!
Is 60 the beginning of the downhill side of life? Is this the birthday that will define me as “old? I needed some perspective.
The Senior Games were underway at Stanford and we needed a place to be other than home, underfoot while the painters finished off the last of our kitchen remodel project. Over the next few days my husband and I attended the games and met some incredible athletes.
There was the 86-year-old back-stroker who took second with four of his five children, 9 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren looking on. We watched him smack his fist on the water in frustration as he realized he just missed breaking his goal time of one-minute by just two seconds, and talked to his daughter who told us that he is one of the coaches for her children’s swim team.
We walked to the track and watched the medal ceremony for a 93-year-old man who took a gold medal for his pole vault of 5’1”. We met Chuck, a 78-year-old, waiting to practice in the high-jump pit before his event the next day. He told us he had never participated in sports as a young man. He said he had to work after school as a teenager to help with family expenses and then joined the army, started his own company and never had time to consider sport competition. He had recently sold his company but still sat on the Board of Directors. He saw an ad for the qualifying rounds for the Senior Games the year before and decided to enter several events to see what he could do. He said he stayed in shape keeping his 5-acres pruned and cleared. He went to the qualifiers and “came home with a handful of medals”. He narrowed his focus to the high jump and told us that when he qualified for the event he “just ran up to the pole, jumped up bent his knees to the side to pull his feet up, and went over the bar standing up!” He spent the following year learning how to do the “flop,” clearing the bar with his back the way Olympic athletes do.
The next day we met Frank, a 95-year-old who had just run the 100-meter dash and won the gold medal. He told us he took up running at 65 years of age and ran 3 miles a day for several years until he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. “That set me back a bit,” he told us, but he was able to build back up to about a mile a day when he began treatments for bladder cancer. “It’s a bit harder now for me to run on a real regular basis” he said, “but I find time to train for the Senior Games.” He introduced us to his wife, a young 85-year-old, and their son, who wasn’t yet 50.
Of all the competitors, however, Jane, Juanita, and Mabel might be my favorites. They make up three-quarters of the over-85 women’s three-on-three basketball team from Oklahoma. They have been playing together for 35 years and have won their age group at the Senior Games several times. The team has dwindled to only four players but it hasn’t diminished their spirit or competitive nature. The husband of the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Senior Games told us they lost their first game in several years earlier that morning and they stomped off the court furious with themselves for losing their focus.
These wonderful athletes don’t define themselves by their age or the adversity they’ve faced living out their years. They continue to run and jump and play, and appreciate that life is for living, enjoying, trying new things and having fun. I learned that hope, courage, joy, determination, friendship, and camaraderie have no age limit.
I can’t wait to see what my 60th year brings!