Tuesday 25 October 2016

Elderly cancer survivor (92) becomes oldest woman to finish marathon

Published 01/06/2015 | 08:48

Harriette Thompson crossing the finish line in the 2014 Suja Rock n Roll Marathon in San Diego (AP/Competitor Group)
Harriette Thompson crossing the finish line in the 2014 Suja Rock n Roll Marathon in San Diego (AP/Competitor Group)

A 92-year-old cancer survivor rocked her way into the record books, becoming the oldest woman to finish a marathon.

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Harriette Thompson of Charlotte, North Carolina, completed the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in San Diego in 7 hours, 24 minutes, 36 seconds. She was mobbed by well-wishers as she crossed the finish line.

"I'm fine, they're really pampering me here," she said in a firm, joyful voice as people all around her shouted congratulations.

This was her 16th Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and, by far, the hardest.

"It's always harder but this year has been a bad year for me," she said, adding her husband died in January following a lingering illness and she battled a staph infection in one of her legs.

"I couldn't train very well because my husband was very ill and I had to be with him for some time and then when he died in January I had some treatments on my leg," she said. "I was just really thrilled that I could finish today."

The oldest woman previously to complete a marathon was Gladys Burrill, who was 92 years and 19 days old when she completed the 2010 Honolulu Marathon.

Mrs Thompson is 92 years and 65 days old, according to race organisers.

Despite her training woes, she nearly matched her finish time of last year, which was 7 hours, 7 minutes, 42 seconds. That set a record for a woman 90 or older, shattering the old one by more than 90 minutes.

A classically trained pianist who played three times at Carnegie Hall, Mrs Thompson says she mentally plays old piano pieces she had performed to help her get through the 26 miles, 385 yards

She did not begin running marathons until she was in her 70s, after a member of her church approached her about being one of her sponsors in the event to raise money to fight leukaemia and lymphoma.

As she had lost several people in her family to cancer, she thought she should compete as well.

"When I got out there the first year I just planned to walk it, but everybody else was running so I started to run with them."

She is not sure if she will run again next year. But after last year's race she was not certain she would compete in this one either.

She added she enjoys raising money for cancer research and believes the competition has helped keep her healthy.

"I don't think I'd be living today if I didn't do this running," the cancer survivor said. "I'm helping them and they're kind of helping me."

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