By BRITTANY SHIVERS
Andrea Harrison from Newnan competed in her third National Senior Games in June in Albuquerque, N.M. The Games are the largest multi-sport Olympic-style event in the world for those over the age of 50, according to Marc Riker, CEO of the National Senior Games Association (NSGA). At 85 years old, Harrison competed in the 5K and the 800m in the 85-89 age range. She placed first in the 800m against six other runners with a time of 6 minutes and 24 seconds. The second-place winner, Edna Hyer, wouldn’t cross the finish line until 12.36 seconds later. Harrison also placed second in the 5K with a 13:52 minute-per-mile pace coming in behind Maria Georgiev from Longboat Key, Fla. To qualify for the games, Harrison had to compete in an NSGA-sanctioned event the year prior to the national games. Those who place in the top four of their age group or who meet the NSGA Minimum Performance Standard qualify. Harrison has qualified for the last three national games at the Georgia Golden Olympics in Warner Robins.
“I started running when I was 50 years old,” said Harrison. “One of my sons said, ‘Mom, come run with us,’ so I did. The first time I ran a mile, I thought I would run in the Olympics.” At all of Harrison’s races, she has her family fan club cheering her on. They call themselves “Gammy’s Groupies.” “One of my daughters got them all T-shirts to wear as my Mother’s day gift,” said Harrison. “They say ‘Thrive at 85’ on the back.” With six children, 16 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, Harrison has a lot of support. Her grandkids and great-grandkids cheer her on in the stands, while her three sons Will, Tom and Bob Harrison sponsor and coach her. “My sons will bring new running shoes to my door and sometimes socks, and they all three have been coaching me,” said Harrison.
Harrison said he sees running as an opportunity to honor God and to run for her identical twin sister who has dementia. “When I run, I feel like I’m running for her,” said Harrison. “I also want to honor God, and I think of the hymn that goes ‘Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful all for Thee.’” Harrison said she also believes in something she calls “motion and commotion,” meaning that exercise and movement can lead to a healthier and fuller life. “The motion of movement helps the commotion in our lives – both physically and spiritually,” said Harrison.
Harrison plans to keep competing in races. Not only does she compete in state and national games, but she also competes locally with RACE for the Orphans and Run for Angels. “I want to keep running to be an inspiration to other people, and to show other people that they can do more than they think,” said Harrison.