On Sunday, May 31, 2015, 92-year-old Harriette Thompson finished San Diego’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon—she’s ran the race 15 times, this was her sixteenth. As she crossed the finish line, she earned a place in the record books as the oldest woman to ever finish a marathon. There’s a few lessons we could all learn from Harriette Thompson, even if it doesn’t earn us a spot in the record books.
Lesson One: Stay Active
Harriette says that the annual race keeps her active all year long. This year she finished the race in 7 hours and 24 minutes and 36 seconds, alongside her son Brenny, who’s 56. Despite losing her husband and dealing with a staph infection in her legs within this past year, Harriette continued on with her training for the 26.2 mile long race. She says she’s always liked to stay fit, and at age 76 she decided to run her first marathon.
“I just don’t think of myself being that unusual. I have a lot of people saying what an inspiration I am. That’s nice to hear, good for something at this age.”
Lesson Two: Run for a Cause
In a promotional video, Harriette said that she runs for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as she was wearing a purple Team In Training shirt. In the video, she notes that she’s lost friends to Leukemia and Lymphoma. According to the Charlotte Observer, Harriette, a three-time cancer survivor, has lost both of her parents, her brother and her husband of 67 years, Syndor, to the disease. She’s raised more than $100,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Running for a cause is a great way to keep your motivation up, it raises awareness and for Harriette, it seems to be a way to pay tribute to the friends and family she’s lost to the disease. Runner’s World has put together a list of cancer charities that have a running connection and there’s other charities like Walk Like MADD, which supports Mother’s Against Drunk Driving and March for Babies that supports the March of Dimes, are two examples that have running connections, too.
Lesson Three: Always Smile
As Harriette crossed the finish line she was wearing her bib number, a Team In Training hat and t-shirt and a big smile.
“I’m a little stiff,” Thompson said,. “I’m not quite as limber as I used to be. I imagine that by morning I’ll be alright, but right now, when I get up and down, I can tell I’ve punished myself for awhile.”
Her cheery disposition is certainly contagious.
Main photo courtesy of Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series