Joy Johnson, the American grandmother who made headlines Sunday by becoming the oldest woman to run in the New York City Marathon, died on Monday afternoon.
The 86-year-old from San Jose, California, who developed a passion for running late in life but participated in the marathon for the 25th consecutive year, fell and struck her head at about the 20-mile mark.
But she continued to run and completed the 26.2-mile race, afterward refusing to visit the hospital on the advice of an on-site medical crew.
Diana Boydston, her youngest daughter, told AFP: “She never really ran to compete; she ran because she loved it.”
Johnson, who stood 5 feet 5 and weighed 120 pounds, often said she wanted to die running.
She finished the race in about eight hours, or about three hours slower than her best running years, in the 1990s.
On Monday morning, Johnson appeared with her sister, Faith, on the Today Show in Rockefeller Plaza. Afterward the two returned to the hotel, and Joy laid down to rest.
She did not wake up.
“I got to tell her I loved her. That’s what’s been keeping me going,” Boydston said.
Johnson, a former gym teacher, had been the oldest woman competing in the New York Marathon since 2011. In a pre-race interview, she told the New York Daily News:
“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.”
There were more than 50,000 participants in the marathon. Of those, only 31 were at least 80 years old.
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