Colleen Milliman only started running at age 90 and has been crushing her competition since. (Photos by Paul W. Harvey IV)
Colleen Milliman was born on Aug. 21, 1926. She’s 5 feet tall, weighs 105 pounds, and was the first woman over age 90 to record a time for the track mile at the 2017 Hayward Masters Classic, clocking 13:26.46.
A year later she crushed the world record in the 800 meter, clocking an amazing 5:44.50, more than a minute faster than the previous record held by Betty Lindberg.
Please pause and reflect on these historic, astonishing accomplishments. It was a personal record for the mile, having only started her track career that same year.
Born and raised in the mountains of Utah, Milliman moved to Oregon in 1950, where she raised two sons, Greg and Roger. At age 75, Milliman decided she needed more exercise and joined the Obsidian Walking Club. She loved the hiking, both in and out of town.
But what is life if you’re not continuing to improve, master new challenges and have more fun?
Here’s part of my interview with Colleen Milliman.
Q: Can you walk (or run) us through the experiences and thought process that got you racing at age 90?
A: Always active, and loving to walk and hike, my grandson Carl noted I walked faster than most older folks could run. So, we checked it out at a high school in Springfield, and he was right. A few months later I ran the mile at the Hayward Classic. On the last lap I was dead last, hugely disappointed, and embarrassed that I was holding up the meet — until people started clapping.
Q: Your second race, a few months later in Portland, is another fascinating story. What happened there?
A: I ran a world record in the 800 (6:16.55), but it was not accepted because the race was not clocked to a thousandth of a second. (She raced again at the Hayward Classic last May.)
Q: You are coached by Vin Lananna and Ian Dobson at the Sunday morning hour at Hayward Field. Anyone else helping you?
A: My personal coach is Megan Patronelli. I’m also learning a lot from Vin and Ian about form, techniques and interval training at the Sunday morning Tracktown sessions. We all need coaching — a second opinion.
Q: What is your workout schedule? Any diet tips for the younger crowd, that is, the rest of us?
A: I’m at the In Shape Gym thrice weekly. In addition, I ride a stationary bike four times a week, do 75 squats daily, walk two to three miles a day — sometimes with my son Greg’s leashed Akita, a 95-pound dog who tries to run as often as I allow her to do so. I eat moderately, no junk.
Q: You run on a replaced knee and with a post-surgical back. Thoughts and advice on strenuous activity by seniors?
A: Be careful. Know your body and heed its warnings. Rest and heal as necessary. Icing is good. I take no medications.
Q: What are your future race plans?
A: To run the 400, 800 and the mile — as long as I can. I plan to live to age 125.
Q: What are some of the tough choices you’ve made that make you who you are?
A: Deciding to work through arthritic pain and to always keep moving, no matter what.
Q: What’s the best decision you’ve made in your running career?
A: Joining the Tracktown USA community and receiving all the support and enthusiasm.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self at age 75?
A: You’re never too old to try and pursue new adventures. I started climbing mountains in my 70s — McLaughlin at age 75, Diamond Peak at age 77, and the Santos in the Swiss Alps at age 80.
Q: What is a quote you live by?
A: Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional. Laughing at yourself is therapeutic. Laughing is my medication.
Q: What is some coaching advice/routine that you believe in that others would think is crazy?
A: I do 10 minutes every day on the Noblerex K1 whole body vibrator. It was used by the Soviet cosmonauts and it works for me. Google it, or just say I’m crazy.
Q: What makes you grumpy?
A: Negative thoughts and negative people.
Q: What books do you have on your night stand?
A: “Out of Nowhere” by Jeff Hollister (He was the first Nike employee, now deceased) and Kenny Moore’s “Bowerman and the Men of Oregon.” By the way, I knew Bowerman. My employer was his personal physician and friend. Bowerman would come in whenever he wanted, without an appointment, and almost always got in quickly to see his friend and otherwise upset the schedule. He was an amazing, very strong personality, and he knew how to treat his athletes with kindness or toughness, whatever it took.
Don McLean, 73, is a competitive runner from Eugene and frequent contributor to the Oregon Track Club Newsletter. He conducted this interview with Colleen Milliman on March 8, 2018.