The résumé is impressive for any runner, especially a centenarian. But Hawkins doesn’t draw on extensive experience during races. She only started running a year ago—at age 100. “I knew I could run because I’m always in the yard working, and when the phone rings, I go running inside to answer it,” says Hawkins. Here’s how she makes it work.

101 year old runner
Hawkins, displaying her medals at home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana DAYMON GARDNER

Get a good support system
Hawkins credits her four children—ages 64 to 71—for providing unrelenting moral support. But she also relies on track-side assistance. “I always need somebody to catch me at the end of races because I’m out of breath and exhausted,” she says.

Maintain realistic expectations
“At this age, you don’t get any better at what you are doing,” Hawkins says. “Each day, you are a little bit worse.” She doesn’t train much for her races (“I don’t want to waste too many 100-yard dashes, because I only have so many left”), but she does keep busy, spending significant time tending the backyard of the house that she and her late husband built in 1949. “I do a little running around each day—not a certain amount or time—but just to keep everything going.”


 

Don’t stretch too much
Hawkins warms up for her races by simply standing in place and “jiggling up and down a little.” “Whatever it is I’ve got, I’ve got it already, and you don’t need much stretching—or at least I don’t,” she says.

Find a talisman
Shortly before her race in Birmingham, Hawkins opened a fortune cookie that prophesied: You will make a sudden rise in life. “I thought, Well, I’m going to this race…if I should win or do well, maybe that’s what it’s talking about,” she says. “That gave me a leg up.” She kept the slip of paper and often tucks it into her pocket for on-the-go good luck.