Harriette Thompson, a 92-year-old woman from North Carolina, ran her way into the record books on Sunday after becoming the oldest woman to finish a marathon.
Ms. Thompson completed the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego, Calif., in 7 hours, 24 minutes, and 36 seconds. It was the 16th Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon she completed. A year ago, she set a record for the fastest marathon by a woman 90 and older, finishing in 7 hours, 7 minutes, and 42 seconds. The previous record was 9 hours and 53 minutes.
"I don't think I'd be living today if I didn't do this running, she told the Associated Press on Sunday, adding that she enjoys raising money for charity and that the marathon keeps her healthy.
"I'm helping them and they're kind of helping me."
Thompson began running when she was in her 70s, after a member of her church asked her if Thompson would sponsor her to raise money to fight leukemia and lymphoma.Thompson, a two-time cancer survivor, says she thought a marathon sounded like a good idea. She has only missed one marathon since, and has raised more than $100,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“I hit up all the people in my retirement home,” Thompson told competitor.com.
“Every year I write them a [thank you] note and say, ‘I think this is my last year.’ Then I do another one.”
Thompson says she wasn't able to train as much this year. In January, Thompson lost her husband of 67 years and her son, who often runs with her, also has been diagnosed with cancer.
During the marathon, people approached Thompson to take pictures with her and cheer her on.
“Since I’m so old, everybody wants to have their picture taken with me,” Thompson told Runner’s World.
Thompson is a classically trained pianist who performed three times at Carnegie Hall during her career. She said she mentally plays piano pieces as she runs the 26 miles and 385 yards.
The oldest woman to previously complete a marathon was Gladys Burrill, who was 92 years and 19 days old when she completed the 2010 Honolulu Marathon. Thompson is 46 days older than Ms. Burrill.
The oldest man to ever complete a marathon is 100-year-old Fauja Singh, who completed a marathon in Toronto in 2011.
“Anything worth doing is going to be difficult,” Mr. Singh told the Guardian at the time.
As Thompson crossed the finish line on Sunday, confetti was thrown in the air, competitor.com reported.
"I'm amazed that they, that they're interested," Thompson told NBC after the race. "I just feel I don't deserve this, but I'm enjoying it."