At 105-years-old, Julia Hawkins became the oldest female in history to compete in a sanctioned track and field event. Growing Bolder’s video of her historic run has been shared by media outlets across the globe and viewed millions of times, inspiring the world to believe that more is possible as we age.
Julia Hawkins is arguably the world’s most famous centenarian. The world is infatuated with Hawkins because she has a lifestyle that anyone of any age would enjoy. She is fun and funny. She is engaged in life and making a difference in the lives of others. She socializes with friends and enjoys reading and writing. She loves to work in her garden, an official state-certified habitat with over 75 native plants, all of which she has identified and tagged.
Every conversation with Julia quickly turns to her husband, Murray, who died in 2013 at the age of 95. The two were college sweethearts separated by World War II. Murray was stationed at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed.
They had been apart for a year, and when they realized that it would be at least another year before they were together, they got married on the phone.
“He wrote wonderful letters, all that time, long, long letters,” Hawkins recalled. “And I read those letters all again just a few after he died, and that gave me a wonderful feeling of being young again and living that life all over again.”
They were married for 70 years, raising four children. Energized by rereading Murray’s love letters from decades ago, Julia took up running when she turned 100 and immediately began setting records and turning heads.
Hawkins wrote her memoir at 100, and at 105 was still living alone in the house that she and Murray built together in the 1940s.
“I have had so many people say, ‘You’re what I want to be when I grow up. You’re my example,’ and if I’m being left here in life just for that, that would be good enough. To set an example for a lot of people. If that’s what I’m doing, I’d like that,” Hawkins told Growing Bolder.
“I believe when you get older, you should have magic moments and passions, because older people have to have something to look forward to, something to be ready for, something to care about,” Hawkins continued. “I do care about a lot of things. I care about flowers and birds, sunrises, and sunsets. I’ve seen so many wonderful things in my life.”
On November 7th, 2021, Hawkins showed up to the track at the Louisiana State Senior Games, ready to collect another magic moment.
Hawkins was surrounded by loved ones, including former students of hers now in their nineties that she taught more than 80 years ago. Prior to the race, Louisiana’s Lieutenant Governor honored Hawkins with a proclamation for her inspirational example of healthy aging.
“You know, keeping your balance is hard when you’re 105. Just standing still is hard,” Hawkins said as she prepared for the 100-meter-dash.
But Julia didn’t come to the Louisiana State Senior Games to stand still. Unable to see more than two feet in front of her, Hawkins bound down the track, completing the race in an official time of 1:02:95, a new world record as the oldest competitor to compete in a sanctioned track and field event at age 105.
“The wind was bad. It was cold, but I still wanted to do it,” Hawkins said afterwards. “I had a lot of friends here today. Students that I taught from three different classes are here today and I wanted them to feel that their teacher did well. I like to please people, and this is one way to do it.”
The inspirational takeaway from Hawkins’ record run isn’t about the 62 seconds it took her to complete the 100-meter dash. It’s about her ability to stay active and keep moving at all, no matter how fast or how slow.
“Julia ‘keeps on keeping on’ because she’s not only able to adapt to the challenges of aging, she’s anxious to do it,” Growing Bolder’s Marc Middleton says. “She’s able to do it without losing her enthusiasm for life, and I think that’s what slows down most of us. We run into an obstacle or encounter a setback, and somehow we can’t figure out a way to just keep going. As Julia told us, older adults need something to look forward to and care about. Julia’s secret sauce has always been her ability to find that in ordinary moments.”
On February 10th, 2024, Hawkins celebrated her 108th birthday, still excited to celebrate life with the loved ones around her. It is never too late for anyone to follow her example, to get up off the couch start creating their own magic moments.