OLALLA — When asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, English mountaineer George Mallory famously said: "Because it's there."
As 92-year-old Olalla resident Juanita Adkins contemplates her 12th half-marathon, she offers a similar answer.
"I do it," she says, "Because I can do it."
Adkins will likely once again be the oldest participant in the Seattle Marathon on Sunday — and by a long shot.
Race officials said she's the only person registered older than 82. She finished the half-marathon last year in four hours, 24 minutes and 35 seconds. The next most senior athlete then was 83.
Her advice for tackling an event like a half-marathon, at any age? "Be sure to train thoroughly and regularly," she says. "Otherwise, it gets to be really long."
Adkins walks at least three times a week, with one of those training sessions in the seven to 10 mile range. And before the race each year, Adkins and her fellow racers — daughters, other family and friends — tackle the entire 13.1 mile route, a tradition they continued this year.
Adkins is nothing short of an inspiration, friend Susan Mossert said.
"Many of us are in our 70s and they'll say to us, 'that's impressive,'" she said of fellow racers. "We'll respond by saying 'well, we walk with a lady who's 92.'"
Adkins has lived in Olalla for more than 80 years, and she recalls no frequent transportation other than her two feet as a child.
"When I was young, we had to walk where we were going," she said.
The family skied often and she picked up tennis, which she played regularly for most of her life. But when she got into her 80s, she had to stop and walking became her prime exercise.
"She's been exceptionally active all her life," says daughter Karen Olson, who will walk the half-marathon with her Sunday.
Walking at least 30 minutes a day has been found to be a key to a longer, healthier life, according to the American Heart Association. It can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, improves blood pressure and keep the pounds off. It's also good for the mind.
While Adkins doesn't mind a solitary walk, being with her family is her favorite. They swap stories and scope out pocket parks, things she says she'd never see otherwise.
"I've seen a lot of Seattle I wouldn't have seen if I hadn't been on foot," she said.
This year, though, will likely be her last. "I've slowed down a lot in the past year," she acknowledged. "But I plan on continuing walking."
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