THE WOMEN

25. Arlene Advocate (82)

Arlene Advocat is 82 years old. Her sport of choice: parkour - the one where people leap over walls, jump down from buildings and balance on railings. To be accurate, Arlene takes parkour classes at the Kings Domain gardens with a trainer Kel Glaister, of Melbourne in Motion. 

The classes are held in the city streets of Melbourne, where they use benches, walls, railings - anything they can balance on or jump over. “Our teacher even has us climbing trees in the park!” Admittedly, Arlene doesn’t jump from buildings. The class expectations are adapted to fit the needs and abilities of each student. But Arlene’s teacher is adamant that seniors should not be considered too fragile or incapable of learning and exploring new things.

 Parkour has practical applications. It helps with balance, strength, and maintaining focus. The skills help to ensure that Arlene can continue a healthy, independent and confident lifestyle. At the end of every class she feels like she has done something good for herself. “When you see what you have accomplished, you want to do more!”

24. Charlotte Sanddal (98)

Charlotte Sanddal was born in Chicago, Illinois, USA, on August 15, 1922. Growing up at the height of the great depression, she always found ways to be outside and active for her entertainment.

“Most of my family considered me a very active child, kind of a ‘tomboy’,” said Charlotte. “I enjoyed being outdoors in our neighborhood and found always found activities like roller skating, climbing trees and playing ‘jacks’ with other youngsters

Her love of the outdoors continued throughout her life and she considers herself fortunate to have avoided any major health issues that would keep her from enjoying nature. When she finally retired at the age of 72, a friend introduced her to the Montana Senior Olympics, a qualifier for the National Senior Games. Where she has served as an example and mentor to many.

In addition, Charlotte has racked up an impressive number of gold medals and holds multiple records at the Huntsman World Senior Games, the largest annual multi-sport event in the world for athletes over the age of 50.

Charlotte says swimming has shown her the world. “I have qualified to participate in national and international swim events. I have loved sightseeing in new countries, experiencing new cultures and meeting native people. It was been overwhelming and gratifying.

23. Donna Ingle (69)

Donna Ingle grew up in the mountains of Colorado. It was there that she received her first bicycle on which she rode the dusty paths between her home and that of her grandparents. From this childhood experience, she grew to love the sport of cycling.

Competitive cycling began when a friend introduced Donna to the Huntsman World Senior Games. “It sounded like fun,” Donna remembers. “I loved it and I never miss a year.” Competition is a great motivator for Donna. Every year she sets new goals based on her prior results. Then she works all year to achieve it. Every year Donna earns more gold medals and sets new records in her age group.

Donna has realized that active aging requires discipline. She trains vigorously and watches her diet. “It never gets easier. I work hard and if that isn’t enough, then I work harder.” But the work is worth it, not just in terms of medals and records, but in opportunities for travel, fun, friendship and to help others on their fitness journeys. “The races and winning are fun, but the rewards of being able to encourage or help someone are a greater reward.” 

22. Ida Keeling (105)

The name Ida Keeling is synonymous with running in some circles. For the uninitiated, Ida is a 105 year old powerhouse who runs, lifts weights and just enjoys life. At the age of 92, she set a world record for the 60 meter dash in France. At 95, she set another world record, shaving a full two seconds off her previous record. And if that isn’t enough, on April 30, 2016, just two weeks before her 101st birthday, she set another world record at the Penn Relays for the women’s 100-104 year old age group for the 100 meter dash.

But athletic prowess is only one side of Ida. Her life was touched by tragedy after the brutal and violent murders of both of her sons in a three year period. In an attempt to cope with the grief, Ida began running at the age of 67 at the insistence of her daughter. She hoped it would be a way for her mother to lower her pressure and manage her sadness and loss. The next 28 years would result in a series of trophies and medals from both road races and track.

Ida has been featured in the New York Times, on ESPN and has even made an appearance on the Today show with her daughter where she pounded out 5 perfect-form push ups. Keep on pushing, Ida.

21. Marion Lisehora (89)

In 1939 Marion Lisehora’s grandfather gave her a kickball. He taught her to kick and catch, but mostly he awakened her love of sports. She played sports year round in high school, but the University of Maryland did not offer women’s sports. So, Marion worked on the Steel Pier at Atlantic City as the girl who rode the diving horse! 

For 31 years, as a Physical Education teacher, Marion instilled her passion for sports in thousands of children, including 5 of her own. When she retired, she organized community sports teams in multiple sports. She was also on the Board of Directors for the Delaware Senior Olympics. “I just had to find a way to keep playing!” 

Marion will turn 89 this year. She reminds young athletes, “Never give up what you are doing. It not only keeps your body healthy, but it keeps you social.” And sometimes that’s more important to overall health. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Marion has only been able to walk to the mailbox each day. She misses the physical activity and her friends on the pickleball court. Hopefully, Marion will be back outside soon - sharing her love of sports with her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, her community and the world!

20. Julia "Hurricane" Hawkins (104)

Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins was born on February 16, 1916 in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. As an infant, her family later made their way by Mississippi river boat to Louisiana, where she now resides. Julia has been active most of her adult life. Her first competitive love was cycling. She competed in the 5K and 10K road race at the National Senior Games and brought home the bronze medal on her first try. She eventually dropped the bike and now focuses on her running.

“I fell in love with running. There’s something about it that captures your imagination. You just want to get ahead of everybody.” laughs Julia.

And get ahead of everybody is what she does best. Julia has won multiple gold medals in her age group at the National Senior Games over the years. She's been highlighted in Sports Illustrated and countless other newspapers, magazines and television features. Everywhere she goes she has quite a following.

And it's not over for Julia. She says, “At my age every day is a miracle.” And she takes full advantage of each miracle that comes her way.

19. Nanette (Nan) Bohl (91)

Nanette Bohl, says her life’s greatest accomplishments are all the children that she taught to swim in her own backyard pool. She figures hundreds of kids have been through her course.

Of course, Nan is no slouch in the swimming pool herself. While she says she started teaching swimming lessons in the 1960s, she didn't start competing herself until 1999 when she swam in some local meets. She was preparing herself for the National Senior Games that would be held later that year in Kansas City. It was going to be close to her hometown of Olathe, Kansas, so she decided to “just go for it.” And she did more than just that, bringing home a gold, silver and bronze medal.

“That was my first national level meet,” said Nan. And she hasn’t stopped since. She’s spent a lifetime amassing swimming medals at meets all across the country.

“I’m most proud of the most recent medal I’ve won. I swam in 2019 in the St. George, Utah, USA, at the Huntsman World Senior Games. I swam the 200 breaststroke and won the national record. What a thrill.” said Nan. “If you have any desire of any kind in sport, just keep it up.”

Great advice from a Kansas girl, born the day after April Fool’s Day in 1929. 

18. Silke Schmidt (60)

Silke Schmidt was born Aug. 7, 1959. In 2015 she improved 13 world record times and world best performances. She also won 4 gold medals at the World championships in Lyon. Consequently, she was named European and World Best Masters Female Athlete by World Masters Athletics. After an accident while training, she had to take a break until 2018. She gradually gained strength and endurance by running local 5K’s before returning to the track in May 2019. That year she again improved on her world record times in W60 competition. When asked what she had planned for 2020, she told European Masters Athletics, “I know it sounds ambitious but trying to get faster than in 2019 is a goal which motivates me alot.” She currently is focused on improving her technique and building strength, core-stability and flexibility.

17. Susan Ingraham (61)

Susan Ingraham hails from San Antonio, Texas where she grew up watching her parents play volleyball, tennis, water ski, body surf and run. She says, “It was our family lifestyle to be active; we walked and biked every weekend.” Naturally, Susan’s parents encouraged her to participate in every sport possible. She rotated from volleyball to water polo to dance and swimming. They also signed her up for lessons in gymnastics, tennis, ice skating and basketball camps.

As she gets older, Susan is grateful that she can still compete in multiple sports such as swimming, water polo, badminton and shuffleboard at the national level. She competes locally as well. She says, “Some competitions had stellar results and some were epic failures, but all were fun to try.” Susan believes that people should see fitness as a “golden ticket” to a long and healthy life. Susan cherishes her independence. Staying fit lowers the chance of illness or injury from falling. It helps her maintain strong bones, heart and lungs. And, now that she has grand kids, she can still keep up with them, play with them and create lasting memories for them and for herself.

16. Dierdre Wolownick (68)

Dierdre Wolownick-Honnold was born September 23, 1951 in New York City. She grew up in Queens in a family where roles for women outside the home were pretty narrowly defined: nurse, teacher, secretary.  Deirdre was a teacher for 44 years - 3 different countries in 5 different languages.  She was also a musician. conductor, writer and multilingual tour guide.  After she retired her son Alex introduced her to mountain climbing. She began training at age 57, but it wasn’t long before she had conquered many of the peaks of the Yosemite range: Snake Dike, Cathedral, Matthes, Yenaya and Conness. She is best known for being the oldest woman to climb El Capitan at age 66. 

Training for marathons in her 50’s had helped Dierdre to prepare for mountain climbing. In both instances she studied the task, decided what needed to be done, acquired the necessary equipment and set up a training schedule. She also developed the mindset needed for mountain climbing: “There’s physics involved, there’s knots involved, all kinds of things you have to know and apply, and do it perfectly or people could die.” (Climbing.com 2017) Deirdre wrote a book of her climbing adventures The Sharp End of Life: A Mother’s Story. She continues to climb today and looks forward to her next mountain adventure.

15. Connie Brown (77)

Connie Lyke Brown did not intend to become a “streaker.” But as of 2019 her streak of NYC marathons reached 41. That means she has consecutively run this world renowned marathon every year since 1978. Even a cancer diagnosis in 2009 didn’t keep Connie from running the marathon. She grew up in New York and later moved to Sarasota, Florida, returning every year for the marathon. She used to train 6 days a week putting in 60 miles each week. When she turned 71, she cut back to 3-4 days of training and playing tennis on her off days. Connie ran her first marathon at age 34. She cried when she finished as she remembered her mother who had always believed in her. Now in her mid-70’s, Connie isn’t as concerned about her time when she runs. She just wants to enjoy the experience. “My goal is to finish and feel good—that’s it,” Brown told Women’s Running in 2018. Connie has no plans to stop running any time soon. In fact, she is looking forward to the marathon in 2023 when it will be held on her 80th birthday. 

14. Sally Gibbs (57)

New Zealand runner, Sally Gibbs, proved she is world-class in middle distance races during the 2018 World Masters Athletic championships in Malaga, Spain. Quite a feat for a woman who -by her own admission – was born into a non-athletic family. Gibbs was born in June of 1963. She was raised and educated in Whanganui - but now lives in Katikati, New Zealand.

“I grew up in pretty much a non-sporting family, and my experiences at class netball made me think I was hopeless at sport. I remember enjoying hurdles and high jump at primary school – neither of which I turned out to have any talent for,” she said.

After raising her four children, Gibbs decided to take up master swimming. She liked the Masters atmosphere. On a whim she entered a sprint triathlon at the New Zealand Masters Games and discovered she could run. When she was 45 a friend asked her to train for a marathon. To help her train she joined a local athletic club. Her trainer taught her how to train and she started to train seriously and found a lot of success.

Fast forward to the aforementioned 2018 World Masters Athletic Championships, just 10 years after taking up the sport of running, Gibbs won the 10K with a time of 37:10, the 5K with a time of 17:46 and the 1500M in a time of 4:54 - beating her closest competitors by a combined 63 seconds!

13. Janice Lorraine  (78)

After retirement Janice Lorraine felt lost and alone. But retirement was also a new beginning as an athlete. She marched into the male dominated weight room and started Weight Resistance Training (WRT).  After just 15 months, Janice entered her first bodybuilding competition. According to That’s Life magazine, Janice said, “Finally, at 56, I was ready to step out onto the stage, tanned and greased in a bikini, for my first competition.” She won!  And later won the Australian championships and the titles of Ms Universe and Ms Natural Olympia. 

Janice always had to fight against stereotypes. Men tried to tell her that competing was too hard or that she wasn’t the “right” body type. Others told her that weightlifting wasn’t ladylike or that she was too smart to be in that sport. But Janice ignored them all, and the crowds loved her!  “They simply had no idea that a female over 50 could be strong and in-shape and put on a bikini and compete on stage in public.” At age 76 Janice is still competing. She hopes to inspire other athletes, especially women to never give up and to realize that “life can be vibrant and exciting at any age.”

12. Ernestine Shepherd  (84)

Ernestine Shepherd was born on June 16, 1936 in Baltimore, Maryland. It wasn’t until she was 56 that she and her sister Velvet decided to get into shape. They did aerobics, added weight training and eventually turned to bodybuilding. They set a goal to get into the Guiness Book of World Records, but unfortunately, Velvet passed away before they could achieve their goal. Inspired by her sister, Ernestine continued to pursue their dream. In 2010 at age 71, she entered her first bodybuilding competition, took first place and was entered into the Guiness Book of World Records as the oldest female bodybuilder.

Today, Ernestine continues to compete and also runs 5K, 10K and marathons. She runs 80-miles each week, works out every day and even teaches classes. Plenty of rest and good nutrition help her keep a positive attitude about everything she does. Her motto and the title of her book is “Determined, Dedicated and Disciplined.”  According to Women Working (2019) Ernestine lives by these 3 D’s. She says, “That’s what I live by and that’s why I always tell people that age is nothing but a number."

11. Joy Upshaw  (59)

Joy Elizabeth Upshaw was born in Walnut Creek, California in 1961. Her parents encouraged a healthy lifestyle and her father, Monte, was the 1954 National high school long jump and low hurdles record holder. Even though he was a California sports hero, Joy says, “He never pushed me into sports but my three siblings and I always tried to emulate his excellence.” Joy has been a competitive athlete since grade school. She also considers herself a “holistic person.” Athletic competition helps her to keep both her mind and body healthy. “Training and eating healthy helps me keep my body fit while meditation and competing engages my mind.” Joy has been a 24-time Masters age-group world champion in track. She is also the Huntsman World Senior Games record holder in the 50m, 100m, 200m and the Long Jump for the 55-59 age category.

I always tell people that age is nothing but a number."

10. Patricia McGill  (61)

Patricia McGill was born in May 1959 and lives in McArthurs Mills, Ontario, Canada. She took up running at the age of 15 in 1974. For the next 30 years McGill had a set pattern. “I always mixed my running with some strength work,'' said Patricia. ” I fell into a pattern of running 5 days a week and strength work 3 times a week in my home gym.”

That all changed with the purchase of a road bike in 2006. It was love at first ride! By 2007 she had done a century ride (100 miles).  In 2009 a friend suggested she try triathlon. She did and within a year qualified for Team Canada in her age group. McGill competed in three events for Team Canada, two triathlons (including the 2009 World Cup in Budapest) and a duathlon.

In 2012 she read in an article in Triathlon magazine that CrossFit helps to make you a better triathlete. McGill soon walked into a CrossFit box and found it more challenging than anything she’d done before. Within a few years she abandoned triathlon.

McGill is now finding tremendous success in the world of CrossFit including a second-place finish in the 2019 Games.

9. Madonna Buder (90)

“I was introduced to running by a priest,” sounds like a pretty innocuous start to a story, but when that story belongs to Sister Madonna Buder, the tale is anything but boring. Sister Buder was born in St. Louise, Missouri, USA on July 24, 1930. At the age of 23 she entered a convent of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. In 1970, she left the congregation to join 38 other Sisters from different and varying backgrounds to establish a new and non-traditional community of Religious Sisters. This resulted in the freedom to choose her own ministry and lifestyle.

In 1978, she was introduced to the idea of running by a priest who said it could help her harmonize her mind, body and soul. Even though she was afraid, she ran her first race, a community run of 8.2 miles, on behalf of her brother in the hopes that he could kick an alcohol addiction. 

She found the race very difficult and said, “I never wanted to feel that pain again, so I decided I’d just keep going.”

The idea of a triathlon initially repulsed her, but at the age of 55 she attempted her first one. “Here I am over 33 years later still feeling the exaltation of finishing an Ironman,” she says. She’s completed over 45 since.

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7. Joan Benoit Samuelson (63)

“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” are the lyrics to a popular song by Kelly Clarkson. It is also a lesson learned by Joan Benoit Samuelson who as a young girl aspired to ski in the Olympics some day. But after a severe injury when she was 15, Joan lost the desire to ski at top speeds. However, she turned her competitive energy to running. She did so well that she earned a track scholarship to North Carolina State University, where Samuelson was named to the All-America Team. 

In 1979 Joan competed in the prestigious Boston Marathon. She won with a time of 2:35.15, a new American record. In 1983 Joan won again, this time setting a World Record with a time of 2:22.43. The following year she was the first women’s Olympic Games marathon champion in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Joan is still running and setting records. At age 61 she again ran the Boston Marathon and finished within 30 minutes off her original 1979 time. Joan doesn’t mind looking back on all that she’s done, but she prefers to look forward to all that is yet to come.

6. Flo Meiler (86)

Flo Meiler is not afraid of a challenge. From her days working on a dairy farm to high school where she participated in basketball, cheerleading, tap dancing and music, Flo loved to excel. In her 20’s she began to water-ski competitively and was even part of a human pyramid on water skis! At age 60 Flo decided to try the long jump in a track and field competition. She loved it and has since collected over 780 medals and set many U.S. and World Records in multiple events. At age 85 she set world records in the pole vault, high jump and steeplechase. Her relay team set a world record in Poland in the 4 X 200. She has also been a staple on the medal's stand at the National Senior Games.

Flo is affectionately known as the pole vaulting Grandma and at age 86, Flo trains five days a week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday she runs and trains for her field events. Tuesday and Thursday she lifts weights and plays doubles tennis. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, Flo continued to work out - in 38 degree weather! She knew that if she didn’t stick with it, she would lose it. Flo encourages others to push on even when it’s hard. She reminds them, “Motivation is what gets you started; habit is what keeps you going.”

5. Anne Gilshinan (56)

Ann Gilshinan was born on a farm in Ireland in 1964. She competed in sports in high school and college, but it wasn’t until her daughter encouraged her to enter a mile race in 2015 that Ann began to see her potential as a world class runner. She began to break national records in Ireland and thought, “Maybe I could compete on the European level.” She set her sights on the indoor meet in Ancona, Italy in 2016, and came home with a silver medal in the 1500m. “I was 52 years old and felt great! It was a thrill to compete against all the other women in Europe.”

After battling injuries, Ann came back to compete in the European Championships in Aarhus, Denmark in 2017 and the World Championships in 2018 in Malaga, Spain. In 2019 Ann set the outdoor and indoor World Records in the 800m, 1500m and one mile. (W55) To top off her year, she was awarded the European and World Best Female Middle Distance Athlete of the Year. 

Ann says that staying fit keeps her feeling young and that the desire to compete still burns irrespective of age.

4. Michelle Enslin (52)

Michelle Enslin has always been active in sports with the support of her father who coached her many in sports. (Her dream was to be an Olympic athlete.) At Cambridge High school she was a top athlete, competing in hockey and gymnastics, among other sports. She went on to play hockey at the University of Port Elizabeth (now Nelson Mandela University). Upon graduation she started her own business.

Enslin of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, was cheering for Ironman athletes as they came past her house in 2007 when she saw a man riding his bike with a prosthetic leg. She had always wanted to compete in an Ironman but she didn’t know how to swim. That experience along with a near death experience motivated Enslin’s husband to suggest they compete in an Ironman. To prepare, she took swimming lessons. In 2008 she and her husband competed in their first Ironman in South Africa. Enslin ended up winning her age group in that race.

Since 2011 Enslin has competed in 16 Ironman events, finishing in the top five 11 times and winning her age group 9 times - including the 2018 Ironman World Championships.

3. Karla Del Grande (67)

“When working towards or setting records, my motivation is to show what older women can do.” Karla Del Grande is 67. Her track career began in grade school. She now trains with her coach Coach Jamal Miller and other Masters athletes at Variety village in Scarborough Ontario, Canada.

Karla has 28 Canadian records and 9 World records in individual track and field events. She is in the Ontario and Canadian Athletics Masters Halls of Fame and was World Masters Athletics Female Sprinter of the Year for 2018 and 2019. She was the runner-up for Overall World Female Masters Athlete of the Year in 2019. Karla is especially pleased to hold, at present, records in all 3 of her outdoor events, and 2 indoor events, in the same age category. She also has 13 Age Best Performances in 3 outdoor distances: 100m, 200m , 400m and across 4 age groups.

Although Karla loves to win, it is more satisfying to train, compete and make friends with like-minded people all over the world. She has competed in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Finland, Austria, Spain, Korea and Poland. She has no plans to retire or slow down -- after all, she’s only 67!

2. Bobbe Greenberg (73)

Bobbe Greenberg has always had a competitive spirit. She grew up in Chicago before Title IX, but that did not diminish her love of physical activity.  She loved cheerleading, tennis, downhill skiing, aerobics and running track. In her 50’s Bobbe began spin classes and entered her first indoor triathlon. Bobbe recalls that before her first outdoor triathlon she didn’t sleep for weeks. But she did it and loved it. Racing outside is a spiritual and joyous experience for Bobbe. It’s not about winning trophies but about reaching personal goals. She loves to look back and say, “Look what I can do! Look how strong I am!”  At age 59 she entered her first full Ironman. Then in 2019 at age 73, Bobbe captured the championship title for women in her age group of the Vega IRONMAN® World Championship triathlon in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Her race  time was 14:07:11 (swim: 1:47:02; bike: 7:09:13; run: 4:59:37). Remarkable!  

Training for triathlons has taught her valuable lessons like letting go of cultural expectations for women. “When I exercise there’s a youthful feeling and I love it when I’m done - hair wet, sweaty, feeling vibrant!”

1. Laurie Meschishnick (56)

Laurie Meschishnick has always been active. She grew up on a farm in Canada and played every sport offered so that her school could have a team. She also participated in every workout  craze throughout the decades: aerobics, yoga, pilates, etc. But, she settled into running and yoga as an adult, both of which are solitary and non-competitive. However, from the first time she walked into a CrossFit gym, she felt at home. “It ignited my competitive core,” Laurie claims. Since her CrossFit start in 2010, Laurie has competed in the CrossFit Games seven times and has made the podium four times. In 2019 she won the CrossFit Games in August and that same month she set two World Records at the Masters World Weightlifting in her age and weight category. Laurie reports that she gets messages from people she has never met who tell her they are inspired to do more than they thought possible because of what she has been able to accomplish. Laurie believes that “The only limit to our physical potential is the limit of our mind.” 

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Joy Upshaw Hurdles in Washington