A 91-year-old runner who has battled cancer smashed two records at a marathon in Southern California on Sunday.
Harriette Thompson broke the US record for the fastest marathon run in the 90 to 94 age group when she finished the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in 7:07.42s. The previous record was held by a 90-year-old runner in Portland, Oregon who ran a marathon in 8:53:8, according to governing body USA Track & Field.
Thompson is also the oldest person to have competed in the race – and the second oldest marathon runner in US history.
The nonagenarian’s average pace (of 16 minutes, 20 seconds per mile) surpasses the walking speed of a typical healthy adult.
According to local media reports, she made her marathon debut aged 76 and has only missed two editions of the race since – in 1998 and in 2013, after she’d had most of her upper teeth removed because of oral cancer.
According to reports Thompson had undertaken radiation treatment for squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, on her legs shortly before Sunday’s race.
“It’s so painful,” she told the Charlotte Observer, “I just wish I hadn’t had the radiation until after the marathon.”
The North Carolina resident runs on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training programme, and has raised more than $90,000. Thompson told television station NBC 7 that the cause is close to her heart because each of her family members had died from leukemia or some form of cancer, most recently her 99-year-old brother who died from lymphoma.
Despite aching legs and sapping sun during the course of her latest run, it seems that the race is far from over from Thompson, who hopes to take on next year’s competition.
“If I’m still here,” she told the Charlotte Observer, “I’ll probably be able to train better and be in better shape. If I’m able, I’ll try again.”