Keeling has set numerous running records since she first started running at the age of 67. While a few of her records have been broken, many still hold.
“Exercise as one of my best medications,” said Keeling from her home in Harlem.
In February, Keeling released a new book titled ‘Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down’. The memoir details growing up poor in New York City, being a single mother to four children and the violent deaths of her two sons who were killed within a year and a half of each other.
“After they passed away, I just couldn’t get over both of them. So I just couldn’t. I felt like I was going down. I’m already short, I’m getting shorter. I’m getting meaner and I don’t want to talk to nobody. Something went wrong and I blamed myself,” she remembered.
In an effort to help her mother through her grief, Ida Keeling’s daughter Cheryl encouraged her to run a 5k race.
Keeling recalled that first run in 1982. “I went with this run. But while I was running, I was feeling my strength and I was feeling like I was coming up out of a hole. And I just kept on going.”
Weighing 83 pounds (37.6 kilograms) and standing four foot six inches tall (1.37 meters), Keeling favors pastel colors for her running shoes.
She also favors an active morning regimen that begins as soon as she wakes up in the morning.
“Up in the air with the feet and out the bed. And then I sit on the side of the bed and throw some punches, and I do some squats and all like that because my knees get stiff. And if you are stiff here, you are stiff here. So you’ve got to straighten out both of them. And then I do a couple uppercuts here and there and all that kind of stuff. I have to get ready, I get up on my toes and down. Otherwise I’ll be a mess.”
In addition to daily exercise, Keeling also credits a big breakfast and a shot of cognac to her longevity.
“Sometime you wake up, you’re kind of numb. I know I’m short on iron. That’s why I go that Hennessy. In ’72 they gave me that for poor circulation. And this doctor didn’t say how much or how long. So I’m still at it,” she added.
Keeling, who has no problem doing push-ups or squats despite having arthritis in her fingers and knees, encourages everyone to be active.
“Get up and get around. Don’t sit around doing nothing. Get up and do something. Sometimes you got things there… ‘I don’t like to do this.’ Get up and do it and get rid of it. See how different you feel. It’s a big thing.
Keeling said she will keep running as long as her body allows. Her most recent race was in February and she plans to race again in August.