86-year old runner dies after setting New York City Marathon record


Joy Johnson during her ‘Today’ show appearance Monday with Al Roker, her face bandaged after her fall during Sunday’s New York Marathon.
(Photo : NBC)

Joy Johnson from San Jose, California finished the ING New York City Marathon on Sunday with a time of 7:57:41. She is no ordinary runner, it was her 25th time to compete in the said marathon and, at the age of 86, she was the oldest runner at the event. The following day, the woman who had “I want to die running” as her motto, died in her sleep.

Johnson had tumbled on the 20th mile and hit her head on the ground but she was able to finish the race. She received first aid for her injuries on the face and head but the old athlete refused a trip to the hospital for a checkup. The next day, she even walked from her hotel to the Rockefeller Center where she was interviewed by the ‘Today’ Show. She returned to the Roosevelt Hotel where she stayed, and later was found dead. According to the medical examiner, the woman who has been the oldest female participant of the NYC marathon since 2011 died of complications from blunt trauma to her head.

“She went out happy. She couldn’t have asked for more than that, except maybe a few more years,” said Diana Boydston, daughter of Johnson, in an

Before the marathon, runners that are decades younger than her were asking for her pictures. One reportedly even asked her for a finish line picture but the determined runner said politely that it might affect her time. She was interviewed by NY Daily News where she shared her game plan.

“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,” Johnson said.

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

Johnson was a physical education teacher and served as a coach for years. She only took up running when she retired in 1985. To prepare for the marathon in New York, she circled the track at a local high school in California for two hours everyday. She also participated in half marathons in Minnesota and joined running camps.

When she was younger, Johnson logged daily runs covering 10 to 15 miles. In 1991, she recorded her fastest run for the New York race and crossed the finished line in less than five hours.

“She was a woman of great faith, that was first in her life, faith and family and then probably running. She really loved to run. She made a lot of friends that way all over the world. She really was amazing,” said Boydston.

Johnson, ho would have turned 87 on Christmas day, will be buried in Minnesota.

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