What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of the Ninety-Something Track Star Who Is Smashing Records and Outpacing Time, and What She Can Teach Us About How to Live
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What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of the Ninety-Something Track Star Who Is Smashing Records and Outpacing Time, and What She Can Teach Us About How to Live

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  227 ratings  ·  67 reviews
A fascinating look at the way we age today and the extent to which we can shape the process

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. Olga Kotelko is not your average ninety-three-year-old. She not only looks and acts like a much younger woman, she holds over tw...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published February 18th 2014 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published January 7th 2014)
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I think that this book should be read at the beginning of each new year in order to motivate you for the year to come. Olga is in her mid-nineties and competes in track events. Her health is good and her mind is focused. What makes her different from most every other ninety year old basically boils down to mind set. She eats a decent diet, most likely better than most of the younger generations, but with no hard-set rules. She doesn't take fancy supplements or subscribe to any philosophy except...more
If you're interested in the science of aging, this is your book. It may look biographical because of the focus on 95-year-old track and field star Olga Kotelko, but not really. Instead, author Bruce Grierson uses Olga as a touchstone to guide us through the various theories on what makes people live longer lives (or not).

As you might expect, exercise and movement get a big shout-out. And not just aerobic/cardio exercise, either. Muscle work, too. The body is built for it, craves it even, and, as...more
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Fascinating read. Perfect blend of science and personal story. Grierson looks at all the factors that make Olga the amazing, incredible athlete that she is --she holds 29 world records in track and field. We all age -- but what that looks like for each of us varies a lot, and we have a tremendous amount of control over many of the factors. One of my favorite quotes from the book -"Break a sweat,daily and differently, with others." If you are interested in science, health, exercise, concepts of q...more
Donna  Napier
I so enjoyed reading this book and feel as though it gave me an opportunity to meet this delightful and inspiring woman, Olga. She is my new hero!

Exercise physiology, brain health, psychology, nutrition, genealogy, faith, and friendships are among the many facets that that author explores in his quest to discover what makes Olga run - and throw and jump - so well, especially as she approaches her 95th birthday. Interesting facts and figures are woven between the entertaining anecdotes and storie...more
I am giving this book 5 stars not because of writing style,but because of the information presented and the unique topic. As both an avid runner and healthcare professional, I took a lot away from the information presented. I believe this story needs to be incorporated into the "health" curriculum at schools also.
This story is also inspiring. The lady in the story does not have super DNA that predestined her at birth to become who she is. I know some people are lucky and do, but she was...more
James Banzer
Bruce Grierson's book What Makes Olga Run? presents an intriguing picture of Olga Kotelko, a Canadian who carries a ton of energy on her tiny frame. She is an athlete who has won a huge amount of medals in competitive track and field events. Those accomplishments are mentioned in such clarity as to provide inspiration to get moving. Add to Olga's athletic prowess the fact that she was born in 1919, and you have the stuff that makes for a fascinating narrative.

The thought occurs that Mr. Grierso...more
A very interesting read about nonagenarian Olga Kotelko, who has world records in many track and field sports in her age group. The book focuses a lot more on the science of longevity and aging than on the sport of running itself. I was disappointed in how heavily the book focuses on evo-psych, social science research and anecdotes.
Mike Gowan
When I read one of these books I feel momentarily uplifted and inspired, but then I get sad again.

By "one of these books," I mean books of popular science that are filled with anecdotes about long-lived athletes and how they live to be successful in their old age. The good feelings come from learning about people who are happy, healthy and strong at advanced ages, 80's, 90's.

The sadness comes when I look around at the people I know and realize that all of the older ones have chronic mortal disea...more
Olga doesn't just compete in international track and field competitions in over 7 events--she also lives a very fulfilling, happy life. The general premise of the book is one big "nuh-uh" to the idea that little old ladies are frail, incapable and miserable. Grierson looks at genetics, the positive effects of adversity, exercise, diet, social and introspective awareness, mental alertness and seeking challenges--Olga took up track at 77 years old. The tips are useful for anyone who's interested i...more
Ellen Herbert
Best read of the year so far. Inspirational, educational and a fascinating read. I have a new role model and want everyone I know to read about her, what makes her tick and what we can all do to improve our quality of life. Will return to this one over and over, I believe.
Laurel Flynn
The main points of this book would make a great NYT Sunday Magazine essay....oh, wait. That's how it started out.... Perhaps non-fiction books appear as an essay and then the premise gets sold to a publisher....I seem to think that's how Freakonmics (Lubner and Levitt) got it's start. But in order to successfully grow past the essay length the structure of the piece must expand and detail must flow in to keep the reader engaged through a longer stretch. Perhaps the freeform feel of "What Makes O...more
Suzie Q
The science and the secrets to older athletes like Olga in her 90s success in her track and field events. Part science part inspirational reporting on Olga who grew up on a farm one of 11 kids that hit crisis in midlife as a divorced mom of 2 restarting out on her own when women normally stayed in bad relationships.

She took up track and field events in her late 70s to have another outlet for her energy. Many other older athletes are mentioned as well and even though there is NO magic formula to...more
Okay, I just finished reading this book and googled Olga to see pictures of her and learned that she passed away the day after I started reading this book. I was totally unaware of that while I was reading and as I read I was sure she would live another decade. How awesome to live life so fully right up to the end though.

This book was not what I expected at all. I thought it was going to be a motivational, self-helpy kind of read, which I mostly hate but sometimes read anyway. This was more of...more
I don't usually give non-fiction 5 stars but I have to make an exception for this book. If you read only one non-fiction book this year make it this one because this book could...save...your....life, or at least make your later years truly golden. As the boomers are retiring, living longer, and wanting to really enjoy those years (some demographers believe that half of all the people that have ever reached the age of 65 are alive today) research into aging, slowing or reversing it, is becoming i...more
Sea Cliff Staff Reads
You'll find this book in the Biography section of the library but it's not your run of the mill biography. The story concerns a 92 year old track star named Olga Kotelko. She stands 5 1/2 feet and weighs 130 lbs. She sprints, jumps hurdles, throws javelins and wins medals all over the globe. This book is 12 chapters of what makes her so exceptional. It's a good read. Grierson goes with her to many events, interviews her tirelessly and Olga loves it. Every part of her life is examined: early hist...more
I liked this book because it was about a lady, Olga, in her nineties competing in track and field! I liked the 9 rules for living in the last pages. Much of the rest of the book was interesting, but it was written in a way that couldn't keep my interest, so I skimmed and skipped parts.

I am comparing myself (in my sixties and a swimmer) to Olga. Unfortunately, Olga must have more innate talent than me, because I don't think I'll be as winning as her in my later years. Of course, I wasn't very fas...more
Chris Thorsrud
While reading this book, I repeatedly thought how pleasurable it would be to have Olga as a friend...quite an inspirational individual, regardless of her age. The author presents research in fitness, health, aging, movement at levels understandable to the general reader while encouraging further inquiry into how and why we age the way we do. As the author pointed out, many individuals Olga's generation grew up as she did, physically active on a daily basis, and continued this throughout early an...more
A Good read - Came away with a few confirmations on life and the process of living. Here's a few -
Manage your expectations as you age
Conviction in something & important
The power of faith is really the power of purpose and the importance of a purpose driven life leads to a productive, happy long life
Acceptance that certainty is a mirage

The most important factor in her longevity, performance, endurance in so many sports is her convection to living a life where good, happiness and attention to...more
Solid book about Olga Kotelko, a "masters athlete" in her 90s who is still performing at very high levels, both physically and mentally. I agree with the other commenter who said reading this book is like taking a vitamin in that it gives you a healthy dose of something good for you (in this case, information about living a long and healthy life). The takeaways weren't anything groundbreaking (keep exercising, have a purpose, avoid chronic stress, be nice to others), but there were some good sci...more
Mimi Fintel
Olga is an amazing woman! She holds more thant twenty-three world records in track and field. Seventeen of her records are in the ninety to ninety-five category! This book follows doctors and scientists as they try and figure out how Olga can keep up her pace in sports without injuring herself. This books delves into her family history, her daily routine, the foods she eats, her life experiences and her personality. This all makes for interesting reading especially if one wants to age well and r...more
Just some quotes and thoughts I’ve noted….

p. 26 Adversity theory hypothesis: resilience is learned.
Mild Version: suffering leads to growth (if that ain’t Biblical I don’t know what is)
Extreme Version: we must suffer to reach the pinnacle of human flourishing.

p. 81 Paleolithic granny was a far cry from the frail, stay at home, fire tending figure we imagine. There’s evidence she was a whirlwind of productive vitality, roaming wide and quickly to forage nuts and tubers for her grandchildren. Sh...more
Sheri Radford
Short review:

Wow. Stop whatever you’re doing and READ THIS BOOK.

Full review:

When Olga Kotelko was 93, she fell down a flight of stairs. Afterwards, her doctors were amazed to discover she hadn’t broken any bones. But amazing her doctors is nothing new for the 95-year-old Vancouverite, a retired schoolteacher who took up track and field at age 77 and has been setting world records ever since, competing in 11 track-and-field events, including sprinting, long jump, shot put and javelin.

Fellow Vanco...more
Marggie Skinner
This story about Olga and her spectacular running career that didn't begin until she was 77 years young is a lesson and an inspiration for all of us. Bruce Grierson tries to discover why Olga is able to do so well, competing in 11 events at world championships and continuing to break and set world records in her age group, which was 90-94 when the book was being written. The answer is summarized in 9 very doable rules for living. Enjoy this book. It should amaze AND inspire you.
Don  Kent
Olga is a 93 year old track star but this book is not just about her amazing achievements but the lessons about aging that are provided therein. I think it is a must read for anyone who might aspire to live long, well and happily. The approaches to the puzzle of aging as being explored by the scientific community are well explored by the author whose own life processes are altered by his exploration into what makes this extraordinary woman tick.
Mar 04, 2014 C added it
Shelves: abandoned
Have to be honest and say I'm more interested in seeing Olga run than finding out why.

I read a couple chapters, skimmed a bit more, then stumbled across the "pointers" in the back. I think that is good for me, for now.

I hate to put it in "abandoned" status, but it's just not the right timing to read this. Maybe I'll come back to it one day, but I suspect I'll get sidetracked onto something else.
This is a fabulous book, especially as you approach your retirement years (I'm 75). Olga lived an amazingly healthy life; she just died last month, at 95, of an intracranial hemorrhage, having accumulated dozens of world records for her age group.
I admit I started with Chapter 7... Habits... especially sleep and exercise.
This is a book I want to pass on to friends of every age.

Olga is a 93 year old track and field athlete, has basically every record in her age category. In this book, Bruce Grierson tries to figure out how Olga continues to preform, while he is only middle aged and seems to be sliding into decline. If we have to grow old, Olga is what we hope we will be when we get there.

This book is about a sample size of one, and it will not provide any convincing scientific answers to these questions. But this is not another book to tell you that exercise is good fo...more
Great pop science writing by Bruce Grierson. A fascinating look at aging and very hopeful. It's never too late to start moving your body and not just that bout of 45 min of jogging, but rather all the time in your daily life. I appreciated seeing the connection between exercise, and just standing, and brain development. Inspiring and addictive read.
Beverly Kent
Mar 10, 2014 Beverly Kent rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone who reads
Recommended to Beverly by: Nytimes science review
a book for anyone/everyone past 50. This thin book may change your mind about aging. It will introduce you to.a plus 90 year old and the 50 something writer who introduces her. Don't let the medical jargon deter you and don't miss the charming understated style of the author.
One of the most fascinating books I've read in a long time. A combination case history/biography of a 90-something track star, Olga, combined with research findings about aging and the brain and what factors are within our control. Love to geek out over stuff like this...
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U-Turn: What If You Woke Up One Morning and Realized You Were Living the Wrong Life? 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

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“Keep moving. Create routines (but sometimes break them). Be opportunistic. Be a mensch. Believe in something. Lighten up. Cultivate a sense of progress. Don’t do it if you don’t love it. Begin now.” 0 likes
“We’re using this machine called the human body in ways that would void the manufacturer’s warranty.” 0 likes
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