Oldest Woman Marathon Runner Dies

Kimberly RipleyLife

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Joy Johnson, the oldest woman marathon runner in the NYC Marathon, died just one day after finishing the prestigious race on Sunday. She was 86 years old. Johnson tripped and fell during the marathon, hitting her head on the pavement. Marathon officials wanted to take her to the hospital but she refused--insisting upon finishing the race instead.

Johnson was at the peak of her marathon running back in the early 1990s, when she used to finish the race in approximately five hours. It took her about eight hours to complete the NYC Marathon on Sunday. Following a visit to The TODAY Show at Rockefeller Plaza, where she chatted with Al Roker--a tradition for her and her 83-year-old sister--the two returned to their hotel room. Johnson laid down for a nap and died in her sleep. She was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

“She died the way she wanted,” her friend and fellow marathon runner said. “She was determined to run ‘til she dropped. That gives some comfort, some closure to her family. She did it her way.”

Followers took to Twitter on Tuesday following word of Joy Johnson's death.

In addition to her inspiration, Johnson was known for saying she wanted to 'die running.' This was a popular Twitter post as well.

Sunday's marathon was the 25th run by Joy Johnson. She held the record as the oldest woman marathon runner since 2011. These are both exceedingly difficult feats to accomplish and Johnson met both with style and grace. A resident of San Jose, California, Johnson was a local legend as well as an international one for her running achievements. Her daughter Diana Boydston said that dying running was exactly how her mother envisioned taking her very last breath.

"At least she was running, the way she wanted to go," she said.

While it's undeniably sad that NYC Marathon legend Joy Johnson is gone, knowing she likely died as a result of running a marathon is no doubt providing those who knew her best and loved her most with a sense of peace at this most difficult time.

Image via NYC Marathon

Kimberly Ripley
Kimberly Ripley is a freelance writer and published author from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A wife, mom of five and 'Nana' to Lilly and Aiden, she loves cooking for her big family and watching HGTV in her spare time. Kim is guilty of starting way more home design projects than she can finish. Visit her at Twitter and Facebook.