© 2024 KGOU
Photo of Lake Murray State Park showing Tucker Tower and the marina in the background
News and Music for Oklahoma
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A 92-Year-Old Ran Her 16th Marathon And Broke A Record

Harriette Thompson, 92, and her son Brenny Thompson finish the Suja Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon on May 31 in San Diego.
Jerod Harris
Getty Images for Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series
Harriette Thompson, 92, and her son Brenny Thompson finish the Suja Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon on May 31 in San Diego.

If a 92-year-old can run a marathon, anyone can, right? If you need a little inspiration, look to Harriette Thompson of Charlotte, N.C. The 92-year-old finished the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon — her 16th such race.

According to competitor.com, not only did Thompson cross the finish line, she is the oldest woman to complete a marathon. Thompson clocked in at 92 years old and 65 days, while the previous record holder, Gladys Burrill ("the Gladyator") was 92 years and 19 days when she ran a marathon in 2010, according to The Associated Press.

Thompson finished the 26.2-mile race in 7 hours, 24 minutes and 36 seconds. (In case you were wondering, that's more than two hours faster than Burrill's time of 9:53:16.)

Last year, Thompson set another record: She turned in the fastest time ever recorded in her age group: blazing through the course in 7:07:42.

Duncan McFadyen, a reporter with member station WFAE in Charlotte, N.C., talked with Thompson before she left Charlotte last week. In addition to being a runner, she's a concert pianist and says she thinks about the music she has played as she whiles away the miles.

"I usually think of Chopin etudes, the ones that are technically difficult, because usually they're pretty fast, and it stimulates me to go a little faster, and also helps pass the time," she told McFadyen.

Thompson says she ran the marathon to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in memory of family members who died of cancer, including her husband, who died in January. McFadyen reported that Thompson herself had mouth cancer in 2013, so she didn't run that year — the only year she has skipped the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon since she started in 1999.

Thompson told McFadyen last year that when she signed up for her first marathon, she planned to walk it.

"When I started, everybody was running, so I decided 'I guess I'll run too,' and it didn't seem at that time so bad," she said.

According to The Charlotte Observer, she ran Sunday's marathon with her son Brenny. Aside from typical running buddy duties like feeding her "all these wonderful carbohydrates that kept me going," he also helped keep her on course during the race. The newspaper adds:

" 'For a while there she was wobbling back and forth a little bit more than I liked,' said Brenny Thompson, although he added that many of the roads on the course are paved so that they slope down from the center to the sides. 'So I was on the side that she angled towards. She tends to lean to one side, and every once and a while I had to tell her "Lean right!" and she would lean more to the right.' "

Here she is briskly crossing the finish line:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

More News
Support nonprofit, public service journalism you trust. Give now.