My sister Paula is a runner. She and her husband Michael travel around the country to participate in track and field events. This weekend they were in Eugene, Oregon at the 2023 Hayward Classic. Paula did pretty good; she won first place in her age group in the 800 meter. But her triumph was overshadowed by one of her competitors who set an American record—96 year old Colleen Milliman. Here is the video of her coming in for the home stretch. My sister said that Colleen is one of the happiest people she has ever met on a track.
There are so many things to admire about this woman. Let me list a few:
She is running at a really strong pace.
Strength isn’t necessarily admirable in itself. But the kind of strength that we show when we overcome challenges serves to inspire others. People who build their strength despite their disabilities or who can work with limitations have a depth of courage and humility that is impressive.
She does it while wearing fabulous earrings.
Just because you are doing something challenging doesn’t mean you can’t have fun doing it. Setting a goal and moving toward it step by step makes life exciting. Of course, we may fail and that would be sad but that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the challenge.
She exudes joy.
When people take on a challenge with gusto, doing what they love, it encourages others to find what they love and put their whole heart into it.
She isn’t paying attention to conventional wisdom.
Conventional wisdom says that 96-year-olds shouldn’t put on running shoes and hit the track. Colleen didn’t get that memo. Watching a woman of her age doing something unexpected like that opens the door for each of us to live fully despite other’s conceptions of who we are or what we can do.
She accomplished something that took persistence and hard work.
Facing significant obstacles in life can wear down the spirit in time. Nevertheless, when we persist and commit to the long haul, the reward, when it comes, is very sweet. And persistence builds on itself. Everytime the hard work and commitment pay off we believe a little more in our capacity to succeed.
She demonstrates the possibilities.
It takes a lot of imagination to consider what is possible and it takes faith to work toward that vision. When we witness people who possess the imagination and the faith to turn a possibility into a reality, they seed untold possibilities in places near and far.
Whatever challenges you have taken on, I wish you godspeed and pray that you will surpass the limits that have been assigned to you. There are lots of people watching who are cheering you on and who are inspired by your efforts.