In Akron, Ohio, they are all witnesses. That is, witnesses to LeBron James' stardom and Ida Keeling's inspiration.
Keeling, a 99-year-old great-great-grandmother who lives independently in a New York City studio apartment, turned heads at the Gay Games in Akron on Tuesday. At 4-6 and 83 pounds, size is not on Keeling's size. But physical realities did not stop her from accomplishing her task: Running the 100-meter dash.
"I'm running from old age and arthritis," Keeling told the Akron Beacon Journal.
Keeling finished her heat at the Lee R. Jackson Track and Field Complex in 59.80 seconds, last in the competition. The time is more than 50 seconds slower than Usain Bolt's 2009 men's world record of 9.58 seconds and 49 seconds shy of Florence Griffith's 1988 record of 10.49 .
However, Keeling officially set the record in the 95-99-year-old age group. According to her daughter and coach, Shelley Keeling, a 63-year-old real estate investor, there were no records of anyone in the 95-99 age group completing an internationally certified 100-meter race. That means Ida holds the world record.
Shelley also coach track at Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx. She was originally slated to run with Ida in the 400 meters, but as puddles bogged down on the track, Shelley opted to pull the mother and daughter from that race.
Keeling started running at age 67 to cope with the loss of two sons, killed within three years of each other due to drug-related homicides. Shelley pushed her mother to start running and Ida has not looked back.
“I was so depressed, and my daughter wanted to take me on a mini run," Keeling said. "After it was finished, I felt relaxed and relieved."
Keeling is closing in on triple-digits in age, but she is still an avid fan of exercise and eating healthy. She plans on running the 100-meters again in 2015, this time going for a record in the age 100-104 division.
"Eat for nutrition, not for taste. Do what you need to do, not what you want to do and don't leave out your daily exercise. Love yourself," b>she says.
In a world of excuses, Ida Keeling has every reason not to put herself through strenuous sprinting. She has a dark personal past, a naturally tiny body, arthritis concerns and old age to worry about. But Keeling keeps on running.
"We aren't here to break the record,” Shelley says. “We’re here to set it."
Ida Keeling is not running from anything anymore. She is running for herself and others.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.