Bringing The World Home To You

© 2024 WUNC North Carolina Public Radio
120 Friday Center Dr
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
919.445.9150 | 800.962.9862
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

This 100-Year-Old Probably Runs Faster Than You


His T-shirt read Donald Pellmann, established 1915. At the Senior Olympics in San Diego, the 100-year-old athlete stepped up to the high jump and cleared it, setting a new world record for his age group. And that's not all. Donald Pellmann broke records for centenarians in the 100 meter dash, the shot put, discus and long jump. This senior athlete is now on the line with us from the assisted living home where he lives in Santa Clara, Calif. Hello, and congratulations.

DONALD PELLMANN: Well, OK. It was a kind of a rough day both because of the weather. It was quite warm, and also I had a kind of a bad day. At my age, you get some good days and bad days, and this was not one of my better days. But it was good enough to compete and set some records. And all and all, it was pretty good weekend.

SHAPIRO: Well, Mr. Pellmann, if you set five world records on a bad day, I can only imagine what a good day would've looked like.

PELLMANN: Well, when I was my 90th year, I competed in a national at Fort Collins, Colo. And I had a good day that day and set seven world records on that day.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

PELLMANN: And I never got very much recognition for that. I didn't - it was written up in the local papers, but that was my best day ever. So now at age 100 where there's less competition, it's a little more difficult to keep in condition, but I try to do some exercise every week, a couple times a week and hope for the best.

SHAPIRO: Well, is that your secret to success - exercising a couple times a week? I understand you don't stretch. You don't take vitamins.

PELLMANN: (Laughter). Well, no. I just try to eat sensibly, and I try to do some exercise every day, whether it's a long walk or - I try to jog a couple times a week. I sort of shot put discus locally, but high jump and pole vault and that kind of stuff is very difficult - got to have special facilities to that sort of thing.

SHAPIRO: You set five world records, and I understand the one that was most important to you was the 100-meter dash, which you finished in under 27 seconds on a day when it was about 100 degrees out. How did that feel?

PELLMANN: Well, that was pretty difficult, but that was a record that was held by a Japanese fellow. And now I hear in the news that he's 105 years old, and he's still running. So we'll see what goes in the next five years for me if I can do it.

SHAPIRO: Mr. Pellmann, will you tell us a little bit about your history as an athlete? Is it true that you really only got serious about this after retirement?

PELLMANN: Yeah, that's right. I was about 70 years old when my eldest son, Ned (ph), said, why don't you try the Senior Olympics? I didn't know - I didn't think about it, but there was a Senior Olympics meet in this little town in Arkansas where I live. And then I entered and happened to compete against the state champion in my first meet ever. And I beat him in five events. From then on, I went to 22 other states and 127 meets and almost 900 events, and I got a medal in every one of them. Most of them are gold.

SHAPIRO: Well, I know that since your big win, you've been doing a lot of interviews. How does it feel to have reached the height of your celebrity at age 100?

PELLMANN: Well, it's a little bit late in coming. And it's a - I'm surprised because I heard from London Times and The New York Times. I was amazed to see that New York paper sent a reporter and a photographer all the way out to San Diego to cover the events, so it was unusual and unexpected. But it worked out fine, and everybody was very kind and helpful. And it was a very successful meet and a very successful weekend.

SHAPIRO: Well, Don Pellmann, we're very happy that you can take some time and talk with us here at NPR. Thank you very much.

PELLMANN: Well, OK. Thanks for calling.

SHAPIRO: That's Don Pellmann, the world's fastest 100-year-old man. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.