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Louisiana runner Julia Hawkins reaches a new milestone: her 106th birthday

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Brit Huckaby
/
National Senior Games
Julia Hawkins running the 100 meter dash in November, 2021

There’s a good reason they call Julia Hawkins “the Hurricane.” Back in November, at the age of 105, she set a new world record for fastest 100-meter dash at the Louisiana Senior Games, a multisport competition for adults over 50.

This week, the Baton Rouge resident is celebrating a different milestone, her 106th birthday. And the record-breaking sprinter is showing no signs of slowing down. WWNO’s Alana Schreiber has more.

This story has been lightly edited for length and clarity

Alana Schreiber: When most people turn 100, they’re probably not looking for a new hobby. Then again, they’re not Julia Hawkins.

Julia Hawkins: One of my children suggested when I was 100 that it would be nice to run the 100 yard dash in less than 100 seconds. And I did it in a lot less than that. 

AS: And five years later at the 2021 Louisiana Senior Games, she had a new goal. Run the 100 meter dash in less than a minute.

Hawkins clocked at just over 1 minute and 2 seconds, not quite what she wanted.

JH: I have done much better than that. It was windy and cold, cold. But on that day it seemed to be the best I could have done with the weather like it was. 

AS: But still, she set a world record – with some fans in the crowd to cheer her on.

JH: At that race I had three different children from three different schools where I taught. And they’re 90 years old. They were in the fourth grade when I taught them and now they’re 90! That tells you how old I am.

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Margaret Matens
Julia Hawkins celebrating her 95th birthday in 2011

AS: When Hawkins crossed the finish line, she held the title for fastest 100 meter dash in the one hundred and five years and up category. Which, didn’t even surprise her.

JH: Well I knew it was a possibility because there are not that many older people doing things like this. When I started running there were only a few, and they were not really athletes. Just older women trying to do something different. But I usually managed to beat the ones that weren’t really athletes. 

AS: But Hawkins has always been an athlete. Before becoming a runner, she was a bicyclist. She won several gold medals at past Senior Olympics events. But running felt different.

JH: There’s something they’re saying, I forget what they call it. But it gives you the feeling of wonder, kind of. It makes you want to get out and go as fast as you can and do the best you can. You’re just riveted to the moment and the time. 

AS: Before Hawkins was a world record setting runner, she was a teacher. She is also an avid gardener, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. And she was married to her husband Murray Hawkins for 70 years.

JH: We met on the first day at LSU. He was from New Orleans and I was from Ponchatoula, which was a little town. When I saw him and met him and saw how smart he was and good looking, I went home and wrote about him in my diary. 

AS: And eight years later, the two were married. In a rather unconventional way

JH: He was in Pearl Harbor when it was bombed. While he was out there he was working for the Navy. So when they sent him out there we were married by telephone. Which was unusual at that time. And my father in law went with me to Baton Rouge to see if it was legal in Louisiana. And we found out that it was. So we were married by telephone.

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Margaret Matens
Julia with late husband Murray Hawkins in Jacksonville Florida in 2000

AS: Although Murray passed away at age 95, Hawkins is still surrounded by a loving family, who are coming in from out of town to celebrate her 106th birthday on February 10. And as she approaches this milestone, she’s been reflecting on some of the meaningful moments in her life.

JH: The other thing I’d like to mention are magic moments are things I believe in. Magic moments are something you see that’s unusual that you hadn’t seen often before. Like a sunrise that was especially pretty, or a sunset or a shooting star. Amazing things like that are so worth watching for. You don’t have to be wealthy to get to see them. You just have to be observant and keep a watch what’s out there.

AS: And it’s possible that Hawkins will be having another magic moment coming this summer.

JH: There’s gonna be a meet in Florida coming up in June. If I can, I'm gonna go there and try that one. It’s important to stay active as you get older. And I was thinking that these magic moment things keep you active. They’re a wonderful thing to do.

AS: Hawkins wants to run another 100-meter dash. This time at age one 106, and in under a minute.

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Brit Huckaby
/
National Senior Games
Hawkins triumphant after completing 100 meter dash in November, 2021

Alana Schreiber is the managing producer for the live daily news program, Louisiana Considered. She comes to WRKF from KUNC in Northern Colorado, where she worked as a radio producer for the daily news magazine, Colorado Edition. She has previously interned for Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul and The Documentary Group in New York City.