Published May 30, 2014
Harriette Thompson Running San Diego Marathon
Harriette Thompson, 91, running the 2012 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon.
When Harriette Thompson is not at church playing the piano, the 91-year-old cancer survivor is out running loops around the small lake in back of her retirement community in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Why is Thompson training? She’s running Sunday’s Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego Marathon.
Thompson has run almost every edition of the race. The exceptions were the inaugural year, 1998, and 2013, when she had to miss the race due to surgery for an oral cancer that took her upper jawbone and all but one of her upper teeth. The last time she ran San Diego, 2012, she finished in 6:50:03.
Thompson has also just finished another round of radiation to treat squamous cell carcinoma on her legs.
“It’s so painful,” she told the Charlotte Observer. “I just wish I hadn’t had the radiation till after the marathon.”
According to the Observer, Thompson decided to run a marathon at the age of 76 because a friend of hers was planning to walk the San Diego Marathon to raise money for charity. Since her marathon debut, Thompson has run every year on behalf of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Team In Training, generating more than $90,000.
When Thompson, who is starting in the first corral, crosses the finish line just outside of Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, she will not only be the oldest finisher in the history of the race, she’ll also likely break her age-group record.
According to USATF, the 90-94 female record is 8:53:08, set by Mavis Lindgren at the 1997 Portland Marathon. Thompson’s slowest marathon, 7:05:32, was her first. Her personal record is 6:07:22, which she ran in her sixth marathon at age 81.
The oldest woman to have completed a marathon was Gladys Burrill, who ran the 2010 Honolulu Marathon in 9:53:16 at the age of 92. Thompson will get a single-age record if she finishes on Sunday, as there is no 91-year-old female marathon finisher to date.
Thompson told the Observer she feels like a 91-year-old only after finishing a marathon.
“Lots of times [after the races], I see young girls coming in and limping, hardly able to move, and I think, ‘Well that’s pretty good that I don’t feel that bad,’” she said.
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