What can the world's oldest marathon runner teach us about sports?

Hidekichi Miyazaki, 105, of Japan, says he wants to compete against Usain Bolt.

Kyodo/REUTERS
105-year-old Japanese Hidekichi Miyazaki poses like Jamaica's Usain Bolt in front of an electric board showing his 100-metre record time of 42.22 seconds at an athletic field in Kyoto, Japan.

Known as “The Golden Bolt”  for imitating Usain Bolt’s post-race victory pose, Hidekichi Miyazaki, 105, of Japan, shattered world records in competition at the Kyoto Masters Autumn Competition, the Japan Times reported. Mr. Miyazaki set the record of 42.22 seconds in the 100-meter dash for the over-105 category. His new ideal competitor? Usain Bolt, of course.

“Two or three years ago Bolt came to Japan and said he wanted to meet me,” Mr. Miyazaki told the Japan Times. “There was a call about it but I was out and he left without meeting me. I felt deeply sorry.”

Usain Bolt’s personal record for the 100-meter dash is 9.58 seconds. He holds six Olympic gold medals.  

Before his retirement, Miyazaki worked at an agricultural cooperative. He began running when he was 93 and needed something to do by himself, after close friends and fellow “Go” players began passing away. He prepares for races by taking catnaps and going for long walks in Kyoto, and set a previous personal record time of 34.10 at the age of 103. Guinness World Records has listed him as the world’s oldest competitive sprinter. This might not be too shabby, but Miyazaki was disappointed in his finishing time.

"I'm not happy with the time. I started shedding tears during the race because I was going so slowly," he told the Agence France-Presse.     

Life expectancy in Japan is among the world’s highest for developed nations, according to the World Health Organization. NBCNews reports that data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs indicates that the number of people over 80 has topped 10 million for the first time, of whom 60,000 are over 100 years old.

Rather than viewing these numbers as a crisis, the Japanese government, building upon Japanese cultural norms that place an emphasis on the importance of the community above individual self-determination, is determined to provide the proper resources and care for their elderly so that they can live with dignity. This extends not only to housing, but healthcare as well. Reports from the East-West Center in Hawai'i indicate that this kind of preventative care is something the private sector in Japan has been increasingly supportive of as well.

Miyazaki, for his part, is not concerned about how being a centenarian might affect his running abilities. With this victory behind him, he next intends to participate in the Japanese Masters Championships. He was greeted at the finish line by his daughter, Kiyono, who said he trains every day, and his great-grandchildren, who were carrying bouquets.     

“I’ve never had any health problems,” Miyazaki told the Japan Times. "The doctors are amazed by me. I can definitely keep on running for another two or three years.”

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