January 2002
Vol. 2 No. 8
Bert Morrow has faced his share of life's hurdles over the 89 years he's been on the planet. But as a world-record track and field hurdler who didn't even run his first hurdle until the age of 69, there were many who thought he was simply nuts taking up such a demanding sport at an age when most are starting to slow down. Who would have known that on his 20th anniversary of hurdling, the sport that some thought just might kill him -- actually may have saved his life.

Overcoming challenges has been a part of life for Bert. Both his parents died early -- without Bert ever really knowing his father. And although he had more time with his mother, for the most part, Bert was raised by his grandparents who taught him through example that age is just a number and living life every day to its fullest is really the ultimate goal.

It was a lesson Bert obviously took to heart ... and a lesson that definitely has contributed greatly to the life he's led and why he's still here today talking about his future goals.

"I've been lucky, it's just that simple," Bert said. "I guess I'm suppose to still be here because I've certainly been through enough 'close calls' to know that there must be some reason I'm still here. So as long as I can continue to contribute in some way, then I'm happy to do so," he concluded.

Bert has made his share of contributions including serving five years in the Royal Navy as a commander of torpedo boats in the English Channel during WWII, then as a top executive for General Motors, and since retirement he's been an example to others on the importance of staying healthy and active with age which also landed him a 3-year stint on national television as the Chiquita Banana Man running hurdles and breaking world-records in his 80s after starting every morning with his 'Breakfast of Champions' grains recipe, topped with a banana!

"I'll never forget the day I got the call from Chiquita," Bert recalled. "Before the man ever introduced himself the first and only thing he wanted to know was whether or not I ate bananas," Bert laughed. "I said, well of course I eat bananas, don't be silly, who is this anyway? Ahh yes, guess it was meant to be."

It seems like alot of things in Bert's life have been meant to be and I feel so fortunate having been able to experience a number of them with him. The man is without question an inspiration to all who meet him, regardless of age, people are fascinated by him, his story and his "joive de vive," (love of life) that emulates through him.

Although Bert's done things a bit differently perhaps than most people his age, he believes whole-heartedly in the importance of the journey and not just the destination. He's been this way most of his life, I suspect. He's not one to follow the crowd, he's an individualist who beats to his own drum...and it is perhaps that very beat that has contributed to his heart still beating today.

During his working years, Bert admits he was under alot of stress like most in their 40s and 50s. But unlike those who just continue under those circumstances while their health suffers, Bert and his wife decided that life was to short so they forfeited the security of his retirement pension, sold their home and built a 53-foot ketch to live out their dream and sail 19K miles around the South Pacific. The 3 1/2 year journey was an extraordinary, healthy experience for Bert because when he returned he was "fighting fit," and vowed good health would be his top priority from that point on.

Today Bert is a walking, talking example of that promise and it is one he gladly shares with others. Although he admits he's been active most his life -- jobs, stress, health hiccups, and other aspects of life can make it challenging to maintain it -- but he's convinced and is living proof just how important it is make good health a top priority.

As a world-record hurdler, Bert says he fell in love with hurdling on the first try. "It's like a feeling of flying," Bert shared. "And it keeps me foccused on the importance of stretching, exercising, and eating right so I can keep doing what I love to do -- and keep encouraging others to be healthy too!"

Bert owns countless records, medals, and championship titles for his track and field accomplishments and is actually being touted as a legend in the sport, yet he'll be the first to tell you that it's not about winning -- it's the challenge and camaraderie of competition that really keeps him going. But it's also a unique health regimen and passion for life that has really made this man a champ!

His diet is one Euell Gibbons would be proud of and his daily stretching and exercise routine is one people of all ages admire. Although he ruptured four discs in his back in his early 40s, he never let them operate and instead chose the nonconventional route of inverting -- hanging upside down, coming up to touch his toes 50 times every morning to strengthen the stomach muscles to better support his back. It's been his routine for over 40 years and as a result, Bert has never had back pain since! In fact, he claims he's actually healthier now than he ever was in his 40s or 50s and is living proof that health can actually improve with age.

Yet there's no denying the fact that with age come increased health risks, and
eventhough Bert was in great shape and had not been to a doctor for over 30
years, he did face a bit of a scare five days after his 89th birthday.

"I felt a bit funny that morning and since it's unusual for me not to feel great everyday when I get up, I thought I'd better get a second opinion," Bert said.

Another good call by Bert because as it turned out he walked into emergency with a pulse rate of 30 -- which is practically walking dead! As it turned out, they put in a pacemaker to keep his heart beating regularly and released him the next day with strict orders to lay low for the next few weeks -- no hurlding and no hanging upside down! The doctors were absolutely amazed by his condition and after showing them the pictures of him hurdling five days previously on his 89th birthday, all agreed that hurdling just may have saved his life.

"One has to be in pretty good shape to hurdle," said cardiologist Dr. Evans. "Let alone as an octogenerian. It's pretty remarkable to see that not only did Mr. Morrow live through it, he has no side effects and is expected to make a full recovery to be back at his regular training routine in just a few weeks."

Although it's obvious that Bert's healthy living and eating routine contributed greatly to his remarkable recovery, there's also a powerful inner message that played an equally important role.

"I'm a fighter ... always have been and suspect I always will be," Bert shared. "I could have died numerous times before now but I guess I still have work to do here and fortunatley I'm still passionate about hurdling, life, and living each day to the fullest so that's what I'm going to continue to do!"

To learn more about Bert visit my webpage at ageangel.com and click on
superseniors and you'll find his breakfast recipe, stretching routine and more!

Kelly Ferrin is a local gerontologist residing in Carlsbad. She is a certified
AARP retirement specialist, motivational speaker, consultant, and author of a
nationally released book titled, "What's Age Got To Do With It?" For column
ideas contact her at (760)438-2126 or on the internet at ageangel@earthlink.net.
Kelly Ferrin, Gerontologist Lifestyles (760)438-2126
web: http://www.ageangel.com

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