Ann Kahl died on January 14th, 2022, at the age of 92. While many are heartbroken by the passing of this true inspiration, Ann herself was at peace, knowing she lived and died exactly as she had hoped to. By her own account she was just an ordinary person, but to many others she was simply extraordinary. Growing Bolder did a number of stories on Ann over the years, here are some of the most memorable.
Growing Bolder first met Ann 12 years ago. One of her friends called to tell us about someone she thought was a great example of the Growing Bolder philosophy. It sounded too good to be true, but we were intrigued. We agreed to meet at her home, and much to my surprise she exceeded expectations! She told us her story: how she struggled from low self-esteem, how the early death of her sister motivated her to get off the couch, and how she started running at the age of 50. She explained how surprised she was to find that it improved every aspect of her life. She told us about the calligraphy business she started at 65. She surprised us by declaring that being in her 80s were the best years of her life.
Well, we had to see her in action, and we had a great opportunity at a road race she entered in Winter Park, FL. She was 86 years old. Not only did it give us a chance to witness her energy and enthusiasm, but we also saw first-hand how much she inspired so many other participants. Runners of all ages came up to shake her hand, congratulate her, to thank her and to tell her how she has changed their lives. She even inspired Growing Bolder CEO Marc Middleton to present her with a Growing Bolder Inspiration Award.
The very next year Growing Bolder visited Ann again, this time to learn that running wasn’t her only form of fitness. On days when it was just too hot, or if her body was sore, Ann would simply jump into her backyard pool to do some deep-water pool running. She would always encourage others to join her, and before long she was leading weekly workouts for neighbors and friends. They explained to Marc how Ann’s enthusiasm and attitude lifted them to a level of fitness and health they had never dreamed was possible.
The more people she met, the more her message spread. Ann became an inspiration, not just from running but from how she lived her life. Always one of modest means, she insisted she had everything she needed to live a vibrant, full and exciting life. She was proud of the fact that she took charge of her own health, and how keeping her healthcare costs at zero affording her many other possibilities. Marc explained how the connection between health and wealth allowed her the freedom to live as she wished, even at the age of 89.
Just last year Marc sat down with Ann again at 91 for a no-holds-barred conversation about her belief in the power of purpose. She talked about what was possible, even for someone without a lot of money and without a lot of family. Anne also explained what she would do to deal with the inevitable ageism she said she experienced from time to time.
What Ann wanted more than anything was to convince people to take responsibility for their own health by becoming active and making fitness a daily part of their lives. She felt she was the perfect example of someone who never would have predicted that running and working out could be such a large and fulfilling part of her life. It changed her in so many ways she felt compelled to “pay it forward” by using herself as an example of an ordinary person who one day decided to get off the couch and into fitness. The joy she got from her life was from inspiring others to do the same.
So, what is Anne’s legacy? She wanted you to realize that the running community is not intimidating, it is welcoming, encouraging and empowering. There is one Growing Bolder story that she liked most of all, even though she is only in it for a few seconds. She appreciated it because the spotlight was on those who had every excuse not to try, but who did and changed their lives because of it. And most of all, she would have loved to know that she would still be inspiring people to improve their physical condition, mental health, and social connection just by hearing her story.
The best part is that you can still honor Ann. Here’s how: do something. Be active, get in the pool, start walking, contact a running club in your area, ride a bike. Just do whatever sounds fun to you. Take the first step towards taking charge of your own health and happiness. Make the second half of your life the best half of your life, just like Ann Kahl.