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Her Last Marathon

Legacy.com / Nick Ehrhardt

Her Last Marathon

Last Sunday, Joy Johnson ran her last marathon. As she crossed the finish line of the ING New York City Marathon, she did so for the 25th time. Her time of seven hours, 57 minutes and 41 seconds may not have made her a winner, but it certainly was impressive given the rest of the facts: Joy Johnson was 86 years old. And in the 20th mile of the race, she stumbled and hit her head – an injury that would have stopped younger, stronger athletes. But Johnson kept going.

She completed the race, and the next day, as has been her tradition for years, she showed up outside the Today show for an interview. Al Roker talked to her about the race, as he's done after the last several NYC Marathons she's run.

After returning to her hotel, Joy Johnson died, of causes related to the head injury and a blood thinning medication she took. The outcome is a sad one, but it seems that Johnson came quite close to getting her own wish: as her daughter reflected, “At least she was running, the way she wanted to go.”

Johnson's Guest Book includes memories from people she has inspired, from the students she taught when she was a PE instructor to strangers who heard her remarkable story.