On June 2, 2014, 91-year-old Harriette Thompson set a record when she completed the San Diego Marathon in 7 hours, 7 minutes and 42 seconds. This was the fastest time for a woman over 90. The previous record was just under 10 hours.
Before the marathon, she told the Charlotte Observer that the only time she feels her age is after running a marathon.
“Lots of times, I see young girls coming in and limping, hardly able to move,” she said, “and I think, ‘Well, that’s pretty good that I don’t feel that bad.’ ”
Not only is she 91 years old, Harriette also ran the race as a cancer survivor. She told reporters that she had undergone nine radiation treatments for skin cancer in 11 days, with the last treatment only one month before the race. She wore tights over bandages to cover the skin wounds left by her recent cancer treatment.
“Everybody in my family has died of cancer,” Thompson told TV station WFAE. “It’s sort of in our genes.” Her brother died from lymphoma in February, according to a report in Runner’s World.
Every year she runs the marathon to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
What are her secrets for maintaining the stamina to complete the marathon?
She takes yoga and stretching classes and exercises on an elliptical machine, NPR reports. And, in her retirement community, according to the Observer, she’s “one of very few residents who [move] at faster than a strolling pace.”
Harriette is also a former concert pianist. “She says the discipline of playing has helped her running and that she sometimes keeps pace during a race by replaying pieces in her mind,” NPR reports.
“I usually think of Chopin etudes, the ones that are technically difficult, because usually they’re pretty fast, and it stimulates me to go a little faster, and also helps pass the time,” she told WFAE.
She plans to run the San Diego marathon again next year, if she’s alive and able to compete, she told reporters.
“If I’m still here next year, I think I’ll probably be able to train better and be in better shape,” she told the Observer. “If I’m able, I’ll try again.”
She and her husband Sydnor live in Charlotte, North Carolina. They just celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary.
See this report by ABC News:
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