HUMANA Hero: Julia Hawkins, 101, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
As we often say, it’s never too late to get into The Games. It’s also never too late to set and pursue goals. This year, NSGA’s poster child for these axioms is 101-year-old Julia Hawkins, who decided to try competitive running at the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana after she crossed the century mark last year.
The retired teacher is running the 50- and 100-meter sprints in Birmingham, but it’s not her first National Senior Games rodeo. A lifelong bike rider, she was inspired to compete in cycling when she was 80 and witnessed local games in nearby Lake Charles. “When I saw all these older people running and jumping, throwing discus and pole vaulting, I thought it was amazing and wonderful. I just fell in love with it,” she recalls.
Julia competed in four National Senior Games, starting with San Antonio in 1995. “I got gold in the 5K and 10K time trials three of the four times I went. I quit when there was no more competition. Women just dropped off after a certain age,” she says. “But I thought I’d try The Games again after I became 100, just for the heck of it.”
“I’ve written my life story. I’ve been writing on it since I was around 60 I guess,” the spry centenarian from Baton Rouge continues. “The kids are helping with finding photos and getting it ready. I’ve done some neat things in my life, and I would like to add this to it.” Her children, now age 71, 69, 66 and 64, along with other family members and friends, plan to attend and watch this latest chapter to be added to her book.
She qualified for her sprints, as well as for the 5K cycling time trials, at the 2016 Louisiana Senior Olympics. She still enjoys biking around her neighborhood regularly, but has opted to just burn up the track this time around. “The Birmingham course is kinda hilly, and I’m a flat lander. I’m competitive, but I want to make sure I can finish.”
In a recent feature for Runners World, she explains another advantage for taking the track. “With running, it’s just me and my body. I can just go out and do the best I can and not depend on anything else to help me.”
She is gradually and carefully ramping up her training, also telling Runners World, “There is a fine line of pushing yourself and wearing yourself out. You don’t want to overdo it. You just want to do the best you can do.” Her goal is the beat her 50-meter personal record of 19:07. Regardless of time, when she crosses the finish line, she will set National Senior Games records, since no woman has run her races over the age of 100 before.
“I have a couple of people helping me get ready, but I’m not going to change much,” she concludes. “I’m gonna run like I always do.”