Oldest Female NYC Marathoner Passes Away

joy johnson

The oldest female runner in last weekend's New York City Marathon passed away on Monday, less than a day after completing her 25th consecutive NYC marathon. 

Eighty-six-year-old Joy Johnson from Willow Glen, California, began distance running in her 50s after retiring from her job as a physical education teacher and coach. She ran her first NYC marathon in 1988, and was one of 18 octogenarians competing this year, only four of which were women. 

Around the 20-mile mark, Johnson fell and hit her head. Responders at the First Aid tent suggested she go to the hospital, but Johnson was able to speak clearly and opted to finish the race instead, "more determined than ever," according to Johnson's daughter Donna Graffis.

Johnson clocked a time of 7:57:41, and early Monday morning she headed to NBC's "Today Show" with her sister Faith Anderson, as she's done for the past ten years after the marathon. She spoke with Al Roker and displayed her medal, and upon returning to her hotel, laid down to rest. That afternoon, Anderson was unable to wake her up. 

Johnson's cause of death is still unclear, but her family takes solace in the fact that Johnson passed away doing what she loved.

"She wanted to die with her running shoes on, and she did," daughter Diana Boydston said of her mother.

Contact Us