Race For the Ages: Q&A With 99-Year-Old Sprinter Champion Goldy

On Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, a 99-year-old man will race a 100-year-old woman. They will do so over 100 meters in front of tens of thousands of fans at the Penn Relays and thousands more watching live on FloTrack. The New York Times profiled centenarian sprinter Ida Keeling last weekend; you can read about the record-breaking, Hennessy-swilling 100-year-old here. I interviewed the 99-year-old Champion Goldy, Sr. (his real name) over the phone this week. Here's what he had to say ahead of Saturday's showdown.

MileSplit: What is your goal for this weekend's race at Penn?

Champ Goldy: Just to be able to run. I understand there's another person--a lady--that's a hundred years old. I have fun doing it; sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. But I don't worry about that any more. Just to be able to do it, you know?

Last year after the race, you said that your time wasn't very good, that you didn't want to be over 30 seconds. This year, you're not worrying about time?

Yeah, I don't have that speed that I had. I was hoping to do it in less than 30, but that's not true any more.

So you don't have that youthful speed and intensity that you had at 98?

No, I don't think so.

What are some workouts you've been doing to get ready?

I haven't been going to the gym. I was in the hospital about two or three weeks ago. I had pneumonia, so I was in the hospital for six days, I guess it was. So I've been getting myself back in shape again. I run my hundred meters--did that this morning in front of my house. I time myself through it. Not too good! Last year it was about 33, 35, something like that that I did up at the Penn Relays.

What's your diet like?

I try to eat right. I eat two good meals a day. Cereal or eggs for breakfast and then a regular dinner mostly any time we like. I try to eat the right kind of stuff to keep me going here.

I have to ask about your name. Where does "Champion Goldy" come from?

There's five of us. It goes back to 1819, I think that was the first Champion. I cannot find out it came about in our genealogy. I understand that his birthday is the same as mine, January 30th. My dad was Champion, my son is Champion, so that's three, and there's five of us altogether.

How old is your son now? Do you think he could beat you in a 100?

He's 70.


No, no, he's nursing a broken bone in his foot. 

Are you still preaching on the beach in the summers?

I got a wedding coming up in May. I'll be preaching two times on Long Beach Island, one in August and one in October.

Is there any particular wisdom from your 99 years that you work into the sermons?

I just tell the congregation what I've been doing with the racing and so forth, and we go from there. By becoming a Christian, by believing in Jesus Christ, we can try to make a difference in our own personal lives as we represent him in our areas of life, you know? If we can all get people to believe in loving and caring for other people, we can make a difference in the world.

What does it feel like for you to be out there at Penn when you race?

Oh, it feels good! Let it go, and go from there. I may hold back just a little bit sometimes, over the last six or eight years I've fallen a couple times and bruised myself up a little bit. When it does happen, you can't stop and hit the cement and get a few scratches. But generally, it's a good feeling to let yourself go and to see how fast you can go.

That's it. It's fun.

Listen, I can run better than I can walk. I can jog a lot easier than just barely walking. At this stage, once in a while you have a little trouble with your balance. But generally speaking, I can handle that pretty well. It's easier! You're firmer when you're jogging. You're moving in one direction, and that's it.

That's where we are.

Champ Goldy races at 3:45 PM Eastern on Saturday, live on FloTrack.