One Book, One Corridor: let’s read What Makes Olga Run

The community that reads together… converses together. So here’s a community-wide question that is worth asking and chatting about, given we’re at the start of our #50DayWellnessChallenge: “Where does your energy come from?”

Asking it of a 95 year old athlete is even more interesting.

(hint: think deep breathing.)


This month, the One Book, One Corridor initiative, a creation of Whistler Public Library, Pemberton & District Public Library, and Squamish Public Library in collaboration with Armchair Books, Whistler Readers and Writers Festival and the Dream Makers Literacy Coalition, is suggesting that everyone read What Makes Olga Run: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star, and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives

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To reserve, borrow or download the book from the Pemberton library, click here.
The author, Bruce Grierson will speak in person at the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival on Saturday, October 18 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Register for the event and find more information at

At age 77, Olga Kotelka, a retired schoolteacher, decided to give up slow-pitch softball and take up track and field. By the time she reached her early 90s, she held 26 world records. She competed in 11 different track and field events, and won hundreds of Master’s medals in shot put, long jump, javelin, hammer and discus throws, high jump, 100-metre, 200-metre and 40-metre sprints. Author Grierson takes us on a fascinating and humorous journey to find the answers to Olga’s secret, her “fountain of youth.” He tells the story of how he convinced Olga to undergo a battery of physical, genetic, and psychological tests. The scientists take blood and tissue samples, test her on treadmills, and check her muscle mass. Grierson joins her on the search by submitting to the same tests, and with much self-deprecating wit, compares his own results to Olga’s. He examines her diet, which is healthy, but not extreme and includes lots of protein. Several of Olga’s quirks are revealed, including her sleep routine, which is broken into two periods at night; daily self-massage; frequent Sudoku gaming; and a habit of sitting with her legs in the air against a wall before competition.

As their journey together progresses they become good friends, and Grierson chronicles how his exploration of Olga’s incredible physical ability and mental verve causes him to redefine his own life. He slows down to appreciate his family, abandons being too uptight, and stops dreading birthdays that end in zeroes. In the book’s final pages he lists the Big Nine, the rules for living more like Olga — rules that promote “vitality, longevity and happiness.” Not all of the rules are based on physical improvement; at least half of them relate to attitude. As the experiment comes to a close, Grierson admits that “Olga’s biggest gift to me turns out not to be a set of rules but a shift in perspective.” Rebecca Wood Barrett

Read the rest of Rebecca Wood Barrett’s review  here.

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