Older, Faster, Tougher Part 2

Posted on June 1, 2021


Life in the Boomer Lane will begin with an explanation to Loyal Readers. This post is not a follow up to the last post about LBL’s gym attendance. LBL’s going to the gym has never, in all the decades that have gone on, resulted in her being faster, or tougher, although she does seem to have a lock on the “older” part. She is a wuss about anything athletic. Balls hurled in her direction are deemed a threat to be avoided at all cost, rather than being something to be caught or hit. LBL is proud that, during a family volleyball game several years ago, she managed to never come even close to the ball.

This post is, instead, a sort of follow up to one she posted in 2014, in which she highlighted humans of advanced age who continued to run, jump, swim and contort their bodies in any number of ways that defied not only their own chronological age, but the intended physical ability of the human body. It’s time for another post like that, to bring everyone up to date and to see if this one proves as popular as the first one. If you are easily intimidated, there is no reason to read on. Simply leave a positive comment at the end.

As LBL noted in the first post, many seniors take the opportunity that age affords to discover writing or painting or gardening or yoga. These pursuits, while personally gratifying and providing emotional growth, generally don’t set world records. Other seniors would rather sail through the air or run decathlons. Photojournalists have captured them, well into their 80s, 90s and 100s, pole vaulting, running track, doing gymnastics, and participating in marathons. Senior athlete Manuel Gonzalez Muñoz, 95, of Veracruz, Mexico, finished second in the 95+ age bracket of the 100-meter finals during the 2007 World Masters Championships in Riccione, Italy.  LBL could easily revert, here, to her usual snarky self and suggest that perhaps the field consisted of two runners. Munoz, therefore, would have come in last. This reminds LBL of her status of cheerleader in high school. Six women tried out and, based on their abilities, four cheerleaders and two alternates were chosen. LBL became second alternate.

But she digresses. It’s time to get serious again. LBL might as well start at the top. In 2014, 104-year-old sprinter Ida Keeling of New York was still sprinting. Robert Marchand of France, age 109, is still cycling as of this year. Jeno Homonnay of Canada was still skiing in 2020 at age 106. Mieko Nagaoka of Japan, age 106, still swims. Two years ago,103-year-old Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins scored gold in the 100 meter dash. She is still running today. The list goes on and on, covering track and field, cycling, swimming, golf, tennis, skiing, mountain climbing, whatever. Let’s be clear, here. Simply engaging isn’t enough for these folks. These folks compete.

The youngsters are, of course, far more numerous. People in their 80s and 90s engage in just about any athletic event one can imagine, and some continue to break world records.

In her defense, LBL will now point out that she, herself is not to be outdone. Many years ago, she decided that, each year, she would take on a new physical challenge. In the years since LBL wrote the first post about senior athletes, she can lay claim to the fact that, not only has her gym attendance continued, she has, each year, achieved her own athletic milestones. During this seven year time, she rode an observation wheel for the first time in her life, buoyed up by her grandsons, age two, five, and seven. This year, she repeated the feat. And this time, she was able to keep her eyes open and occasionally breathe.

Seven years ago, she rode a roller coaster for the first time. It was a pre-school roller coaster at Sesame Place, and it was built for pre-schoolers. Keeping her eyes firmly closed and reaching new heights of terror, she survived the ride. Her then five-year-old grandson sat next to her, serving as an emotional support animal. A year later, LBL went down a tube slide with the same grandson. By now he was well versed in calming her down and encouraging her by firmly patting her hand.

Three years ago, at Yogi Bear World, LBL sat at the pool each day and stared at the small children climbing to what looked like astonishing heights, inserting themselves into large rubber tubes shaped like tires and then hurtling themselves down large curved plastic tubes filled with rushing water. They all landed safely and happily into the pool below. After watching this for days, LBL’s grandsons convinced her to give it a try.

She will not describe the ascent, nor the descent. Both have provided her with many years ahead of her of PTSD. She will merely note that her reward was not to land head-up in the pool with a happy smile of achievement smeared across her face. It was, instead, to defy all laws of physics and manage to hit the water upside down, legs pinwheeling in an unsuccessful attempt to right herself. The lifeguard stationed in the pool at the end of the tube, expressed obvious concern that, for the first time in the years she had been working there, a patron hit the water looking like dying cockroach. She managed to right LBL and tube with more than a small amount of effort.

LBL can now take her well-earned place among the superstars of senior athletics, those who defy expectations of what it means to be an old person. 2021 is not yet over, and she looks forward to whatever personal world record lies ahead. A return trip to Yogi Bear World has been planned for July. She knows that whatever she decides to tackle is waiting for her to conquer it. Older. Faster. Tougher. Even More Terrified. Bring it on.

22 May 2021109 years, 177 daysA