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photo of grandma holt set a world record running the 400 meter

Grandma Holt Sets World Record While Raising Funds for Children

In June of 1996, at 92 years old, Bertha “Grandma” Holt set a world record in a 400-meter run held at Eugene’s historic Hayward Field! An avid runner, Grandma decided to participate in the Hayward Classic Masters Track and Field Championships as a way to raise money for children waiting to be adopted. Read a story about her run originally published in the Summer 1996 edition of Holt International Families Magazine.

photo of grandma holt set a world record running the 400 meter

Bertha Holt, 92-year-old co-founder of Holt International, didn’t get the cloudy day she prayed for, but she did establish a world record time for the 400 meter run in her age category.

On June 29, Grandma Holt ran in the Hayward Classic Masters Track and Field Championships held at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Her official time of 3:45.66 will go into record books as the fastest officially recorded 400 meter run for a person in the 90-94 age category.

Because she preferred to run under cool conditions, Grandma had requested that people pray for clouds. But it was under a bright, clear, blue sky that Grandma warmed up with a lap around the Hayward Field track where the NCAA championships had been held a few weeks earlier. In shoes and warm-ups similar to those to be worn by the U.S. Olympic team and donated to her by Nike, Grandma passed by the stands where dozens of Holt staff and adoptive families had gathered to cheer her on.

The announcer proclaimed, “That’s a new world record for Bertha Holt,” but she didn’t hear it because she was already greeting several children who had rushed to her side with bouquets of flowers.

A little after 2:00 p.m. the 400 meter run was called, and at 2:15 runners took their marks. Grandma lined up in lane 2 as news crews from several local TV stations and photographers from newspapers lined up their cameras on Grandma to record her run.

scan of magazine appeal to donate to grandma's run

At the gun Grandma strode out to the cheers of well-wishers and the athletes all around the field. After the first turn Grandma settled into a trot which she maintained during the rest of her single lap run around the track.

As she neared the finish line, Grandma waved her arms and broke the electronic beam of the timing device at just under 3 minutes 46 seconds. The announcer proclaimed, “That’s a new world record for Bertha Holt,” but she didn’t hear it because she was already greeting several children who had rushed to her side with bouquets of flowers.

When told that she had set a world record, Grandma leaped into the air. “I just thank God for letting me raise money to help special needs children be adopted,” she said. “The credit should go to the Lord for making this possible.”

Nearly $4,000 had been donated and pledged in honor of Grandma’s run.

children laughing and playing with colorful balloons

Learn more about Holt’s work and history!

At Holt International, we help children thrive in the love and stability of a family. But our services extend far beyond the adoption work we are known for.

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