“Being old has nothing to do with age. Age is chronological. We become old when we are unfit.” These words of wisdom were spoken by Mavis Hutchison, who is 90 years young, and still participates competitively in 100m, 200m and 400m races, as well as shot put, javelin and discus, in the 90 – 94 year old category.
Mavis, born in 1924 in South Arica, began her sports career in walking races. After beginning to run at the age of 36, she set new women's world records for long distance running and walking races. Known as the “Galloping Granny,” she ran from Pretoria to Cape Town, a distance of 1600 km, in 22 days. She became famous as the first woman to run across the United States of America from Los Angeles to New York City. Her route, run in 1978 as a 53-year-old grandmother, took her 4620 km and 69 days, 2 hours and 40 minutes. Her last long run was a circuitous 3200 km run around much of South Africa in 1985, starting in Kimberley and ending in Cape Town.
“The gospel has made all the difference in my life” Mavis said on Sunday 26 October 2014, after attending a special stake conference in which Elder Quentin L Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had spoken in Cape Town, South Africa. Her run across America had prepared her for the gospel. The open road had “opened my mind and heart to the hidden reaches of a hidden existence. I was ready to discover myself.” When she returned to South Africa, she was taught by missionaries, but on the day of her baptism, she felt that the step she was taking was an enormous commitment. She wondered if she would be able to keep it. That was in 1978. Now she feels that joining the Church was worthwhile in spite of sacrifices made along the way.
Standing by her commitments is important to Mavis. She recounts an occasion when she was being prepared for an upcoming social event and was told to pose at the door with a glass of champagne in her hand. She explained that she no longer drank alcohol, but she was told to pretend. She agreed to this, but when she got home, she felt her decision was wrong, so she refused to hold the glass of champagne. Her advice to youth today is to develop and stick to good principles. “Don’t be afraid to stand out, to stand for your principles,” she encourages.
Training every day is no longer necessary for Mavis. She feels it is important to stay fit and to keep her body strong, especially at her age, and feels that the Lord is telling her to slow down somewhat. She will be happy as long as she can climb the 20 stairs to her apartment every day. “Being old is a matter of attitude,” she assures. “It is in our favour if we remain not only physically fit, but also spiritually, mentally and emotionally strong.” When she feels troubled, her scriptures and prayer help her cope. She particularly appreciates the comfort of association with the members, as well as her family, some of whom live close by. She adds that the gospel has given her peace in matters which she used to be afraid of, such as death.
During her long running career, Mavis has inspired countless sports women and men, and she continues to do so. Her example and influence are felt by those who admire her dedication to her commitments, not only in completing those very long runs, but in standing up for her principles and enduring the race of life in the gospel.
Interview with Collette Burgoyne Sunday 26 October 2014 Cape Town, South Africa