This was an amazing, fascinating, and fun book. The author, Bruce Grierson, follows nonagenarian Olga Kotelko around the world as she competes in track-and-field events. She also participates in various scientific studies aimed at finding out why she has been able to set so many world records at her age. Spry is not the word.
What Makes Olga Run?, indeed? It appears to be based more on her character than her genes. She had a hard-scrabble childhood and a bad marriage. What makes her tick? Grit and determination. Optimism. Refusal to sit around being bored. The book spends a lot of time explaining the science of longevity research, but Olga’s personality shines through just as much. She sounds like she would have been a lot of fun.
Olga Kotelko is not the only lady of advanced years in Grierson’s book. In fact, there might not be anyone younger than 40. Grierson frequently compares his own fitness level to this 90+ years young woman, to his detriment. It’s clear that hanging around these masters class events is humbling for him. It turns out that the majority of the competitors were inactive for decades on end, resuming a former athletic career as senior citizens, or in some cases, trying it out for the first time. The message that it’s never too late is underscored with every cameo by the many mature competitors.
When I started running, it was because I wanted to do what I could for my future self. I was already 35 and I had never been remotely close to athletic in my life. I knew there was no more time for fooling around; if I were ever going to “do something about it” and learn about physical fitness, I couldn’t procrastinate any more. I learned that there was a centenarian marathon runner with a white beard longer than my hair. Thus began my love affair with elderly athletes. I never worry what people in their 20s are doing, what records they’re setting or how they look. I know that if I keep going, I’ll be a real contender in my 60s! I’m very glad I didn’t read What Makes Olga Run? sooner, because it probably would have relaxed my vigilance and convinced me I could keep waiting another decade or two.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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