Sherry A. Phillips

Suspense Author

RIP Joy Johnson – New York City Marathon’s Oldest Runner Dies


Yesterday, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Joy Johnson, 86, New York City’s oldest runner. That is, until I read about her in Runner’s World.

No one should be saddened by the death of this incredible woman, because Ms. Johnson lived life to the absolute fullest and died exactly the way she wanted to. She will be my motivation as I pull on my Vibrams for this morning’s run.

From Runner’s World:

Joy Johnson, who at 86 was the oldest woman to complete Sunday’s New York City Marathon, died on Monday at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.

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.

“We are saddened to hear about the passing of Joy Johnson, who finished her 25th New York City Marathon on Sunday,” the New York Road Runners said in a statement. “Our deepest condolences go out to Joy’s family and friends. She was an inspiration to us all.”

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.”

RIP, lovely lady.

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