Ninety-two-year-old Charlotte resident and three-time cancer survivor Harriette Thompson became the oldest woman to complete a 26.2-mile marathon when she completed the Suja Rock n' Roll San Diego Marathon in 7.5 hours on May 31.
At 92 years old, Harriette Thompson is now the oldest woman to ever complete a marathon.
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Thompson re-wrote the record books by completing the 26.2-mile San Diego Rock n' Roll Marathon on May 31, per The Charlotte Observer's Theoden James. Thompson, a Charlotte native, finished the race in seven hours, 24 minutes and 26 seconds.
She beat the old record previously held by Gladys Burrill, who completed the Honolulu Marathon in nine hours, 53 minutes and 16 seconds at the age of 92 years and 19 days in 2010, per James.
Thompson is 92 years and three months old, per The Charlotte Observer.
She ran the same marathon in 2014 with a time of 7:07:42, the fastest ever by a woman in the 90- to 94-year age bracket, per James.
Thompson wore a purple Team in Training shirt, cap, purple shoes and purple shorts over white tights during the race. James says the white tights concealed bandages from wounds as a result of skin cancer radiation treatment).
Thompson crossed the finish line outside the San Diego Padres' Petco Park to the cheers of many onlookers and supporters. Reporters from ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX were also there to meet her, per The Charlotte Observer.
She told James about the surreal feeling she had when she finished the race on Sunday:
"I can't believe I made it!
"I was really tired at one point. Around Mile 21, I was going up a hill and it was like a mountain. This is sort of crazy at my age. But then I felt better coming down the hill. And my son Brenny kept feeding me all these wonderful carbohydrates that kept me going."
Her 56-year-old son, Brenny, told The Charlotte Observer how he accompanied his mother during the race:
"For a while there she was wobbling back and forth a little bit more than I liked. So I was on the side that she angled towards. She tends to lean to one side, and I every once in a while had to tell her 'Lean right!' and she would lean more to the right."
According to James, 19,000 people signed up for the race. Thompson has completed 16 of the 18 marathons the event has staged since its inception. She has raised more than $100,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Team in Training.
Norcross says Thompson, a former concert pianist, participated in her first marathon at the age of 76. While practicing with her church choir, Thompson saw a friend collecting checks she earned for running the San Diego Rock n' Roll Marathon.
Thompson has been running in the city's marathon ever since, per Norcross.
Thompson told The Charlotte Observer she has participated only in the San Diego Rock n' Roll Marathon because of its commitment to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Both of her parents, her three brothers and husband, Sydnor, all succumbed to cancer. She herself is a three-time survivor of the disease.
Her mother passed away at the age of 91 while her three brothers were in their late 80s and 90s when they died. One of them lived to 99 years old, per The San Diego Union-Tribune's Don Norcross.
"My passion is to help the research for leukemia and lymphoma," she told The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Thompson missed the race in 1998, its inaugural year, and 2013. She sat out the latter year because she was recovering from oral cancer which resulted in all but one of her upper teeth being removed. Thompson managed to finish the race in 2010, 2011 and 2012 with the disease, per James.
Thompson cites her mother as her biggest influence. Her mother wrote poetry, painted and played the piano. Thompson began doing the latter at the age of four. She began to participate in piano recitals at the age of seven, per Norcross.
The San Diego Union-Tribute update says Thompson wrote a bike 26 miles "round trip for (piano) lessons" as a teenager. When she was at Dickinson College, she made roller skating to class part of her daily routine.
Thompson likes to play bridge and read the newspaper to relax. She also "walks for an hour five days a week, takes regular exercise classes and likes to dance," per Norcross.
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