Only weeks after setting a world record in the 100-yard dash, Julia Hawkins is preparing for her next big race. 

But the 101-year-old's training doesn't involve sprints or lifting weights. 

Instead, she's bicycling around her neighborhood and tending her bonsai trees.

"At this age, you're not getting better. You're getting worse," she says, explaining her routine. "You only have so many 100-yard dashes left. You have to save them."

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One of those 100-yard dashes resulted in her world record-setting time of 39.62 seconds for women 100 and older at this year's National Senior Games in Birmingham, Alabama. 

In the 50-yard dash, Hawkins found herself running alongside 90-year-olds on the track in Birmingham. She beat all her younger competitors, completing the 50-yard dash in 18.31 seconds.

That earned her a new nickname — "Hurricane" Hawkins.

Quite a, ahem, run for someone who only took up the sport last year at age 100.

Hawkins, who stands 5 feet tall, began running at the insistence of her children, who had entered her in the event at the Louisiana Senior Olympic Games. 

A longtime cyclist in the state and national senior games, she had never thought of running competitively, she says.

"That amazed me," she says. "I never even tried it. They thought I could. And I could."

Long before she broke a world record, Hawkins had led an extraordinary life.

She grew up in Ponchatoula, where her parents owned a resort on the Tangipahoa River. After college at LSU, she taught school in Honduras for the United Fruit Company. She married her college sweetheart, Murray Hawkins, over the phone while he was in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, working for the Navy. For a wedding present, she gave herself a bicycle. 

When her husband finally did return to Baton Rouge to teach petroleum engineering, they bought an acre lot in the University Acres neighborhood, built a home and raised four children there. 

When she was 75, Hawkins started bicycling in the senior games. She rode a 10-kilometer course daily around her neighborhood to stay in shape. At her first National Senior Games in San Antonio, she earned a bronze medal. Then she won gold medals at the games in Tucson, Arizona, and Orlando, Florida. 

When Baton Rouge hosted the National Senior Games in 2001, Hawkins didn't face much competition. 

"There wasn't a single woman around in the meet," she says. "So I quit. It's no fun."

After her children signed her up for the running events at last year's state games, Hawkins didn't want to disappoint them. 

"When your kids want you to do something, you do it," she says. "You want to do it."

Hawkins thought she could at least complete the 50-meter race because she runs from the garden to answer the phone inside every time it rings. And it rings a lot, with friends and family calling regularly to check on her. 

"I didn’t know how far or how fast, but I figured looking around at people my age, there weren’t too many of them that could run," she says. "So maybe I could do all right."

She did more than all right.

This month she plans to run one more time at the USA Track and Field Masters Outdoor Championships. Held at LSU's track, she could probably just ride her bike there. 


Healthy living advice from centenarian Julia Hawkins

A good man: "One of the best things I can tell anybody is to marry a good man. I just think it was awesome and amazing."

Take care of yourself: Hawkins never smoked or drank, and eats well, avoiding red meat and drinking lots of milk. Her favorite foods are salad, crabs and popcorn — no fried foods.

Stay busy: She works around her house and maintains her bonsai trees, a hobby she's had for decades.

Exercise: "I really recommend as you get older you stay active physically and mentally, too."

Follow Kyle Peveto on Twitter, @kylepeveto.