Stacy Robertson
Stacy Robertson
July 8, 2019 ·  4 min read

103-Year-Old Runner Nicknamed “Hurricane” Wins Yet Another Gold in 100-Meter Dash

There is a common saying that goes: “age is just a number.” This seems to hold true in the case of this Louisiana-based centenarian who has spent what was supposed to be her retirement years breaking and setting world records.

Julia Hawkins, nicknamed the “hurricane”, has proven time and time again that age is just a number by going past the limits society sets on the elderly, let alone centenarians. 

Her amazing fitness journey started in 2017 when she first became a world record holder in the 100-meter dash for the 100-plus age group after finishing the race in just under 40 seconds. 

Prior to the 100-meter dash, the former school teacher had also set another Senior Games record for women over 100 after racing 50 meters with a time of 21.06. Julia did not only win both races, but also set a new world record for her age group. 

“I thought it would be neat to run at 100 and do the 100-yard dash,” Hawkins told reporters in Albuquerque while the annual competition was still going on.

“I broke the record and it was nice,” Hawkins said. “I did it! I did it.”

During the 2019 National Senior Games which took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico this June, Hawkins, who is 103-years-old, took home the gold for the 50-meter and 100-meter dash races, completing the 100-meter course in just 46.07 seconds. [1]

“I’m thrilled I did as well as I did but I didn’t do as well as I have done,” Hawkins told reporters, “I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, or maybe it was the atmosphere.”

Sometimes, life begins at 100

A mother of four, grandmother of three, and great-grandmother of three, Julia is living an absolutely incredible life when others her age are living the retired life. She started off her competitive career in cycling but switched to running when she clocked 100. 

According to her, she turned to running after biking on mountainous courses became too challenging. At 103, Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins is the oldest female competitor in the United States according to the Senior National Games Association

Along with her most recent records, Hawkins is also the oldest woman to ever compete on an American track. When asked about her continued athleticism, she said she mainly watches what she eats and does a little exercise by working in her garden in Louisiana. 

“I have an acre of land and I have 50 kinds of trees and I’m working on them all the time,” she said. Her longevity is miraculous and Julia agrees by saying, “When you’re 103, every day is a miracle. I just keep getting up and I’m here again.”

“I just keep busy. I keep moving, I don’t do any exercises particularly. I used to, but I don’t think I need to anymore.”

“I’ve always been careful how I eat, eat healthily and keep my weight at a certain point,” she added.

She also said that she was given the intimidating nickname “Hurricane” by a friend, but would have preferred to go with something a bit more genial.

“I like the ‘flower lady’ better,” said Hawkins, with a flower petal tucked in her hair.

Julia hopes that she is an inspiration to older people to not stop moving and just keep doing things that they’re interested in.

“I hope I’m inspiring them to be healthy and realize you can still be doing it at this kind of age,” said a proud Hawkins. “Every day when you’re 103 is a miracle.” 

What does the science say?

There have been several studies on the topic of centenarians engaging in sports and even breaking records far after their prime. A paper titled Centenarians breaking records: nature or nurture? analyzed several cases of centenarians who still have an admirable physical function. [3]

One of such cases was the recent European Master Athletic Championship held in Madrid on March 2018. During the event, a 102-year-old Italian athlete, Giuseppe Ottaviani, won several gold medals with a best performance of 0.85 m in the long jump and 3.31 m in the shot put using a 3 kg weight. [4]

Another was of an American, Donald Pellmann, who broke multiple world records at his age-group, including in the 100-m dash (26.99 s) and high jump (0.90 m). What they found was that Genetic factors seemed to play an important role in the odds of reaching exceptional longevity.

They found that physical activity is associated with healthy aging in the general older population.

“In this context, one could view the aforementioned athletic achievements as biological exceptions that are largely influenced by a unique genetic endowment. Although this could be true, these achievements should serve to highlight the potential of regular exercise training for the promotion of healthy aging.” [4]