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What Makes Olga Run?

The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives

Bruce Grierson

St. Martin's Griffin

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ISBN10: 1250060877
ISBN13: 9781250060877

Trade Paperback

256 Pages


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In What Makes Olga Run? Bruce Grierson explores what the wild success of a ninety-four-year-old track star can tell us about how our bodies and minds age. Olga Kotelko is not your average ninety-four-year-old. She not only looks and acts like a much younger woman, she holds over twenty-three world records in track and field, seventeen in her current ninety to ninety-five category. Convinced that this remarkable woman could help unlock many of the mysteries of aging, Grierson set out to uncover what it is that's driving Olga. He considers every piece of the puzzle, from her diet and sleep habits to how she scores on various personality traits, from what she does in her spare time to her family history. Olga participates in tests administered by some of the world's leading scientists and offers her DNA to groundbreaking research trials. What emerges is not only a tremendously uplifting personal story but a look at the extent to which our health and longevity are determined by the DNA we inherit at birth, and the extent to which we can shape that inheritance. It examines the sum of our genes, opportunities, and choices, and the factors that forge the course of any life, especially during our golden years.


Praise for What Makes Olga Run?

"While this book provides an accessible overview of the current science on aging, its charm comes from the tale of a woman who refuses to hang up her track shoes, and the younger man she inspires." —The New York Times

"Entertaining, informative, and surprisingly moving."—The Boston Globe

"Grierson offers an exemplary answer to the longevity question . . . Dedicated runners and weekend warriors, as well as athletes of all types, will find hope in Olga's story." —Washington Independent Review of Books

"An inspiring book that should appeal to the legions of worried agers." —Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

"If you need some motivation to reach your potential, this might be the story for you." —Cape Cod Times

"Smart and engaging, What Makes Olga Run is also profoundly inspiring. It will make you wish you were half as fit and exuberant as Olga, whatever your age, while providing a fascinating look at the latest science on aging." —Gretchen Reynolds, author of The First 20 Minutes

"I am nuts about this book and about Olga. But the real kick was accompanying Bruce Grierson—a very good writer—as he took a smart, deep look into the new science of aging—and not aging—at the high end. I know this field a bit, and I still learned important new stuff . . . all of it great news. Hint: work out like a lunatic 'til the day you die. And jiggle your feet the rest of the time. Olga 'redefined' Grierson's life; she may redefine yours."—Chris Crowley, co-author of the Younger Next Year books and Thinner This Year

"In Olga, Grierson has a magical character with whom to explore the fascinating science of aging—a nonagenerian undecathlete. (That is, a 90-something who excels in 11 different events.) We are left with the empowering knowledge that, to a startling degree, aging itself is a choice." —David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene

"Exhilarating . . . [Grierson's] deft re-creation of the moving and humorous bond between Kotelko and himself gives the book its center. A stimulating and inspiring read for all."—Library Journal (starred review)

"Grierson's fellow boomers have much to learn from Olga's example."—Publishers Weekly
"Eye-opening and insightful."—Kirkus Reviews

"An inspirational blend of hero's journey and science that delves into the mystery of longevity, health and personal fulfillment." —Shelf Awareness

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


Ever since she turned 90, Olga Kotelko has presented a problem for organizers of the track meets she enters: Whom does she compete against?

The issue surfaced prominently in the 60-meter-dash final at the World Masters...

About the author

Bruce Grierson

Bruce Grierson is the author of the books Culture Jam and U-Turn. He has been a freelance writer for twenty-five years. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Psychology Today, among other publications. He lives in North Vancouver, Canada.

Jennifer Williams