Still Running: The Graceful Centenarian

Time imposes limitations on everyone, but aging doesn’t necessarily mean slowing down. While some people resign themselves to old age, others —like Hidekichi Miyazaki— adapt in creative ways. At 105, he holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest competitive runner—and he began at 92! What are his secrets to vitality?

Aging well is often framed in terms of healthy choices: nutritious foods, ample sleep and regular medical checkups. Miyazaki does all of these, crediting a habit of thoroughly chewing food for easier digestion. Such lifestyle decisions are foundational, as a body that isn’t well treated becomes an impediment instead of a useful tool. But while prudently taking care of your health is important, it doesn’t go far enough. The smile on Miyazaki's face after completing his latest race reveals something deeper: a young heart. In his actions and attitude, Miyazaki is living proof that aging doesn't necessarily mean decelerating. 

Though he dabbled in sports during his school years, he spent most of his retirement playing go and reading haiku with friends. As they began to pass away, however, Miyazaki decided to find a different outlet for his energy and tried running. This small step spurred the growth of new neural connections—which slows down but doesn't stop with age—and gave him a fresh perspective on life. The key thing Miyazaki did, which is so important in all of us, was to try something new.

Now, instead of setting his expectations low, Miyazaki is enthusiastically going for more. Claiming that he can't disappoint his fans, including 5-year-old great-granddaughter Yui, he insists on continuing to set records for another 2 or 3 years. This kind of youthful optimism ignores the possibility of failure in favor of a hopeful conclusion. If he does fail, the important thing is that he will have kept going. 

In his passion for moving forward, Miyazaki is a model for all of us as we get older. Building a heart that ages in reverse is surely better than allowing yours to harden as time flows on. A keen sense of humor is also helpful. After setting his last record, Mr. Miyazaki issued a tongue-in-cheek race challenge to reigning 100-m world champion Usain Bolt. If he keeps it up, he just may get his wish.