In Tribute…

I don’t know how many of you are regular Runner’s World readers.  I want to pass on this story in the hope that on our next run, we can all take a moment to remember a special runner–the oldest female finisher of the NYC Marathon this year.

Her name is Joy Johnson.  She ran the race on Sunday at 86 years old.  She finished in 7:57:41…her 25th NYC Marathon finish.

Joy Johnson at the 2011 New York City Marathon


Ms. Johnson passed away on Monday.  Per the article:

As the New York Daily News reports, Johnson fell and hit her head on pavement near the marathon’s 20-mile mark. Medical personnel wanted to take her to the hospital, but she insisted on finishing the race, said her sister, Faith Anderson. Johnson finished in 7:57:41, her 25th New York City finish.

Johnson, who was from San Jose, California, and Anderson joined a crowd outside at the “Today” show at Rockefeller Center on Monday morning. Johnson later complained of feeling tired. After laying down in her hotel room, she never woke up. She was declared dead at Bellevue.

My heart swelled with admiration for this woman.  More from the article:

Johnson first became the New York City Marathon’s oldest woman finisher in 2011 (seen above), when she ran 7:44:45 at age 84. In 2008, at age 81, she ran the Twin Cities Marathon in 6:06:54 and New York City in 6:05:58 four weeks apart.

In a pre-race interview, Johnson said, “I’ll be at the back of the pack, but I don’t mind. I just praise the Lord I can get out of bed each morning and run. A lot of people my age are in wheelchairs.” On some days, Johnson would do 150 push-ups.

She was a gym teacher who took up running upon her retirement. Johnson was one of just 31 starters over age 80 in New York City on Sunday.

“I always say I’m going to run until I drop,” Johnson said the day before the marathon. “I’m going to die in my tennis shoes. I just don’t know when I’m going to quit.”

I write a lot on this blog about the dark side of running and racing, the negative thoughts that can creep into our heads as we push for faster pace, longer distance and better results.  As an average yet long-term runner with an anal and ridiculously competitive personality, I am so often guilty of focusing on the wrong things.

Ms. Johnson helps me remember the other side of running, and one of the main reasons I started this blog, almost a year ago.


I wanted to pass on my love of this sport.  I hoped that maybe just one non-runner would stumble across my lowly words and be inspired to take up this beautiful thing called running.

I run because I can, and my sister can’t (for those who are newer readers, my sister has a disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis–please, please take a moment to click on the link at the top of the page and read about this debilitating yet little-known disease!).

My health is a gift, each day, and I acknowledge that by making the most of it, by doing something that makes me feel so alive and so present in the moment.  I run, and I think of people who can’t, who would love the chance to feel the breeze on their faces and that gorgeous feeling we get when our legs, our muscles and our lungs come together in a perfect run.

I can’t change who I am.  I will always be that runner you see in the picture below (no, not doing a constipated-looking Funky Chicken, just running my heart out!).  I will never be aware of a camera during a race, unless it’s my family behind the lens.  I will never let up if my body can help it, and I will never stop striving to be a better, faster, more capable runner.

But I will try to balance that a little more with the gratitude that I feel for finding this part of life that gives me so much happiness, regardless of speed, no matter the distance marked off on the calendar.




Here’s to Joy Johnson and her legacy–never quitting and never forgetting to be thankful!

Original article here



25 thoughts on “In Tribute…

  1. I saw the article yesterday – so touching. And your own take on it is touching and heartfelt as well. I’m glad you shared it so more people can know about this woman and her love of the sport.


  2. I agree with Running Girl. Would any of us have allowed a medic to walk us off of the course? She finished the race and had a peaceful death from the sounds of it. I think many people would chose to end their lives this way and not in a bed for months hanging on. I’d take it.


  3. Reblogged this on The Race Before Us and commented:
    The Race Before Us looks to point readers to good writing on running and/or faith and we are particularly interested in commending article or posts where we see an intersection of faith and running. This post by Maybe Marathoner seems to capture that crossroads even if not explicitly. It reminded me of the following that Michael Ramsden said about gratitude, which I think is worth contemplating when reading through this “reblog” –

    “In life, we are made happy not by what we may acquire but by what we appreciate. And, if you ask me, the trouble we have today is not that we have nothing to be grateful for but we feel we have no one to be grateful to.”


  4. Thank you for posting about this lady. She’s an inspiration. I completely get your gratitude attitude. Running is a gift I didn’t discover until I was 40 which makes me all the more grateful for what my body (and sometimes my mind) can do. I hope that, like Joy Johnson, I will still be lacing up when I’m 80.


  5. Absolutely heart wrenching and yet awe-inspiring at the same time. Joy was one heck of a strong willed and determined woman. And agreed, she certainly went out her way doing what she loves. Thank you for sharing your story and reminding us of the greatest gift – to run free.


  6. A touching tribute. I teared up when I read the original news story. After not being able to run for a while because of health issues that I thought would take running away forever, I appreciate that you wrote of gratitude. I run out of gratitude every time I run. Thanks for the great post!
    Happy running,


    • Her story deserves to be shared, doesn’t it? Thanks for reading…and I am not surprised that so many of us run with so much gratitude in our hearts. Runners are a special bunch! All the best to you…


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