What Makes Olga Run?
The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier lives

Olga is not your average ninety-four-year-old. She not only looks and acts like a much younger woman, she holds over twenty-three world records in track and field, seventeen in her current ninety to ninety-five category.

In What Makes Olga Run? Bruce Grierson explores what the wild success of a ninety-three-year-old track star can tell us about how our bodies and minds age.

Convinced that Olga could help unlock many of the mysteries of aging, Grierson set out to uncover what it is that’s driving her. He considers every piece of the puzzle, from her diet and sleep habits to how she scores on various personality traits, from what she does in her spare time to her family history. Olga participates in tests administered by some of the world’s leading scientists and offers her DNA to groundbreaking research trials. What emerges is not only a tremendously uplifting personal story but a look at the extent to which our health and longevity are determined by the DNA we inherit at birth, and the extent to which we can shape that inheritance. It examines the sum of our genes, opportunities, and choices, and the factors that forge the course of any life, especially during our golden years.

“Smart and engaging, What Makes Olga Run is also profoundly inspiring. It will make you wish you were half as fit and exuberant as Olga, whatever your age, while providing a fascinating look at the latest science on aging.”

—Gretchen Reynolds,
author of The First 20 Minutes

“I am nuts about this book and about Olga. But the real kick was accompanying Bruce Grierson - a very good writer - as he took a smart, deep look into the new science of aging - and not aging - at the high end. I know this field a bit, and I still learned important new stuff... all of it great news. Hint: work out like a lunatic 'til the day you die. And jiggle your feet the rest of the time. Olga 'redefined' Grierson's life; she may redefine yours.”

—Chris Crowley,
co-author of the Younger Next Year books and Thinner This Year

“In Olga, Grierson has a magical character with whom to explore the fascinating science of aging--a nonagenerian undecathlete. (That is, a 90-something who excels in 11 different events.) We are left with the empowering knowledge that, to a startling degree, aging itself is a choice.”

—David Epstein,
author of The Sports Gene

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Prologue

Ever since she turned 90, Olga Kotelko has presented a problem for organizers of the track meets she enters: Whom does she compete against?

The issue surfaced prominently in the 60-meter-dash final at the World Masters Indoor Athletics Championships, in Kamloops, British Columbia, in 2010. Olga found herself, well, in a class by herself. There just aren’t many nonagenarian sprinters—even when you draw from the whole planet. The next-oldest woman in this meet, Californian Johnnye Vallien, was 84.

So there Olga was, 91, bespandexed and elfin, lumped in with the men.

In lane one stood Orville Rogers, 91, a long-striding retired Braniff Airways pilot and the world-record holder in the mile for men over 90. Next to him: Belgian Emiel Pauwels, 90, another world-record middle-distance man (1,500-meter), in bright orange track spikes, who would later make everyone nervous as he ran most of the 3,000-meter final with his left shoelace untied. Front and center: Ugo Sansonetti, 92, a former frozen-food magnate from Rome, in a blue sleeveless skinsuit, his tanned biceps bulging like small baked potatoes.

Olga drew the inside lane, rounding out the field. She wore black tights and a long-sleeved white shirt—the modest uniform she wears no matter the weather.

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Break a Sweat, Daily
and Differently,
With Others.

Olga's Rules

The Big Nine:
1. Keep Moving
2. Create Routines
     (But Sometimes Break Them)
3. Be Opportunistic
4. Be a mensch
5. Believe in something
6. Lighten Up
7. Cultivate a Sense of Progress
8. Don’t do it if you don’t love it
9. Begin now

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What Makes Olga Run: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives  What Makes Olga Run: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives  What Makes Olga Run: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives  What Makes Olga Run: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives

What Makes Olga Run: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives
What Makes Olga Run: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives  What Makes Olga Run: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives    What Makes Olga Run: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives    What Makes Olga Run: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives