Oldest female runner in NYC Marathon reportedly dies one day after race

An 86-year-old California woman — the oldest female to complete Sunday’s New York City Marathon — reportedly died just one day after finishing the grueling race.

Joy Johnson, of San Jose, Calif., stumbled and struck her head around the 20th mile of the 26.2 mile race, according to her 83-year-old sister, Faith Anderson, who accompanied Johnson to the Big Apple. Medics wanted to take Johnson to the hospital, but she insisting on finishing the marathon, the New York Daily News reports.

“At least she was running, the way she wanted to go,” said Johnson’s daughter, Diana Boydston, also of San Jose.


Johnson finished the race in 7 hours and 57 minutes, or three hours longer than her time during her peak in the early 1990s. Then, on Monday, Johnson said she was she was tired and wanted to lay down in her room at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan. She did not wake up and was later declared dead at Bellevue Hospital, Anderson said.

Johnson, who completed the marathon 25 times, had been the oldest woman running the New York City Marathon since 2011, the newspaper reports. Just 31 of the race’s 50,000-plus participants this year were age 80 or older, according to organizers.

Prior to the race, Johnson said she would simply stick to her pace and walk once she became fatigued.

“I’ll be at the back of the pack, but I don’t mind,” she said. “I just praise the Lord I can get out of bed each morning and run. A lot of people my age are in wheelchairs.”

Johnson was part of a growing trend of elderly runners, according to Don Lein, an official record keeper for USA Track and Field. Lein told USA Today that more than 2,600 people ages 60 and older took part in Sunday’s marathon.

"There is very definitely both an increase in terms of those who want to participate and get fit and those who want to compete," Lein said.

Fauja Singh, 100, became the oldest person on record to complete a full-length marathon in Toronto last month, the newspaper reports.

Eerily, Johnson made a macabre prediction while runners half her age took photographs with her on Saturday, just two days before her death.

“I always say I’m going to run until I drop,” she told the newspaper. “I’m going to die in my tennis shoes. I just don’t know when I’m going to quit.”