— Mary Allen Hardison, a 101-year-old grandmother from Ogden, Utah, has officially been recognized as the “Oldest Female to Paraglide Tandem” — an achievement described Tuesday by Guinness World Records as a “celebration of the official start of spring and life rejuvenated.”
Hardison took up paragliding “on a whim,” as she did not want to be outdone by her 75-year-old son, Allen, who had recently pursued the sport as a hobby. “I didn’t want him to do something that I couldn’t do,” Hardison said. She chose to have her record-breaking accomplishment be part of her 101st birthday celebration, which was last September.
The trip was a tandem one, with paragliding instructor Kevin Hintze guiding the journey. He described Hardison as “hard-core.”
Hardison seems to be known for her resolve. Her granddaughter, Diane Swain, told KSL-TV of Salt Lake City, “My initial reaction was, ‘No, you can’t let her.’ Then I thought, ‘No, I know my grandma well enough to know that if she wants to do it, she’s going to do it.’ ”
Hardison told TODAY.com that the paragliding itself was fun and her ride went smoothly. “You just go up, very slowly, just like an elevator,” she said. “While I was paragliding there was a little bump or two, not very much, not nearly as much as an airplane ... but life has its ups and downs, so I guess paragliding can have a little up and down too.”
She said she wasn’t at all afraid because she saw so many people go up, enjoy the experience and come down without incident.
The now-famous grandmother is new to adventure sports, unless you count riding all the rides at Disneyland, which she did at age 90. She said she doesn’t plan to take up any additional sports in her immediate future — but she confessed that she’d love to go down the 3,000-foot Alpine Slide at Utah’s Park City Mountain Resort.
“If the spirit moves me, if I get an inkling, I’ll go in a minute,” Hardison said.
Hardison’s life revolves around four generations of her family. She also keeps busy knitting caps for sick children and premature babies, as well as crocheting bandages for leopards in India.
She said she finds it “humorous” that so much has been made of her paragliding, but she hopes her achievement will encourage other people her age to get out and stay active. She encouraged the elderly to keep going and stay positive because, as she put it, “Friends don’t like a grumpy person.”
She doesn’t want to hold her world record for long. “If you are able and even older than I, then I’m happy for people to attempt to break my record. I promise the experience will be well worth it!”
Hardison’s new record beats out the previous record-holder, Margaret Mackenzie McAlpine of the United Kingdom, who went paragliding in Cyprus in 2007 at the age of 100.