A 92-year old woman who is a two-time cancer survivor is the oldest woman to ever finish a marathon.
Harriette Thompson of Charlotte, North Carolina, finished the Suja Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon yesterday in 7 hours, 7 minutes and 42 seconds, setting the world record for the fastest marathon ever by a woman 90 years or older, according to the race organizers. Despite overcoming health and emotional obstacles such as the loss of her husband in January, Thompson managed to finish her 16th marathon on Sunday to a cheering crowd. The previous record was set by Gladys Burrill at the 2010 Honolulu Marathon with a time of 9 hours, 53 minutes and 16 seconds when she was 92, but more than a month younger than Thompson is now.
When asked how she does it, Thompson said with a laugh in a videotaped interview, "I put one foot down and then another one. Actually, I don't know. It's just I love to run."
Thompson started running when she was 76 years old and has raised more than $90,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Because of radiation treatment on her legs for skin cancer last year, she was unable to fully train for the marathon, the race organizers said. She also faced a staph infection in her legs while she trained this year. She credits her 56-year old son, Brenneman, for helping her through the marathon with her choice fuel: water, Gatorade, PowerBars, GU, bananas, oranges and pretzels.
“I believe this will be my last time, but my friends remind me that I say that every year,” Thompson said in a statement.
A former concert pianist, Thompson is still fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Thompson's online fundraising page indicates she has raised over $14,850.
The oldest man to finish a marathon is reportedly Fauja Singh, a centenarian who has run a handful of marathons, though Guinness World Records has not recognized his accomplishments because he doesn’t have a birth certificate. However, a British passport shows a date of birth of April 1, 1911, according to the Associated Press.