Ida Keeling Runs the Race of Faith and Life

102-year-old runner inspires readers to ‘put feet to faith.’

When Ida Keeling was 67, her daughter Cheryl asked her to participate in a cross-country run because she was worried about haer mom’s mental health. Eight months earlier, Keeling’s son Charles had been murdered. Cheryl made this unusual request to help her mom get back to the job of living—and it worked.

Now at age 102, Keeling clearly remembers how she felt after the Big Red 5K Mini Run in Brooklyn, New York. “I felt better as soon as I started running. I started sleeping well immediately.” For her this race was just the beginning of a new era in her long and distinguished life. Keeling became a world record holder for the 60-meter dash in the 95 to 99 age group, and the 100-meter dash for the 100 to 104 age group.

“I know that my running will not spare me from more heartache or physical pain. I’m not trying to run from trouble. But as I run, it’s my hope that others are watching my strides and will be encouraged, inspired, or motivated to do their own type of running, to pursue their own goals and not look back,” she says. “I’m running toward solutions, strength, and hope. Every step I took from my first competition to the present has been my way of declaring that nothing will keep me down.”

A VIEW OF HISTORY

Readers will feel as though they are viewing history through the personal lens of Keeling as she colorfully recounts significant historical events. Growing up in the Bronx during the Depression marked her life in ways she never forgot, as did living through the civil rights movement as a single mother to four children in New York City. Working hard to pay the rent and put food on the table, Keeling never gave up hope no matter what obstacles were in her way. With every setback, she understood that God was making her stronger.

Particularly moving are her memories of watching racial inequality warp and change through the years. Keeling experienced firsthand violence erupting on the streets to friends and strangers alike. Prominent civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X featured in her life as she attended their speeches and was forever challenged and changed by their passionate words.

“People of all colors need to face the fact that God made us all. We must accept our differences,” she says.

A LIFE OF FAITH

Through the years, Keeling had to deal with the loss two sons, a failed marriage, and single parenting her two daughters to adulthood. She candidly admits to making big mistakes in her romantic life, yet realizes that God was with her all along the way.

Her spirit was forever hopeful and strong despite poverty and her father’s inconsistent show of love toward her. Keeling’s faith in God’s trustworthiness has been the single steady feature in her challenging life, and she is excited to have the opportunity to share her life story with the world.

She believes that Christians need to put feet to their faith to show the world how much God loves them. Her counsel to Christian bookstores is simple: “Christian bookstores need to advertise more. They also need to create Christian plays and movies to get the message out to a bigger audience. I am thankful that Christian bookstores exist.”

—Michele Howe