This morning, Harriette Thompson made history as the oldest woman ever to finish a half marathon. She crossed the finish line of the Synchrony Financial Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon all smiles and waves. With her son, Benny, by her side, and streams of confetti raining down around her, we have to wonder: Is there anything this 94-year-old can’t do?
In 2015, Thompson set the still-standing marathon world record, becoming the oldest woman to finish a 26.2-mile race at age 92. Over the past two years, Thompson battled squamous cell carcinoma, a condition which prevented her from returning to the race in 2016. After immune therapy treatment and difficult skin graft surgery, Thompson recovered and eventually returned to running. She wasn’t able to get her mileage up in time to train for a full marathon, so decided to tackle the 13.1-mile distance–a feat that many people one-third of her age have difficulty achieving.
Leading up to the race, Thompson spoke with Women’s Running magazine, saying that she was happy to run for Team in Training and to motivate people along the way. Through running, the two-time cancer survivor has raised over $100,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society and raised over $17,000 this year alone.
Thompson said, “It’s amazing to me that people are making such a deal about this. At age 94, I guess they don’t expect you to be able to do much, but I’m really thrilled that I can help Leukemia and Lymphoma.”
The retired pianist from Charolette, North Carolina, who has performed at Carnegie Hall, says it’s much more difficult to prepare for a concert than a race. And with a finishing time of 3 hours, 42 minutes and 56 seconds, she made the half marathon look easy, crossing the line with energy to spare.
Thompson’s not only fast and talented, she’s funny to boot. In a pre-race interview, when asked what she wanted to do after the race, she laughed, “sleep,” adding that she might get an ice cream cone that night.
Her world record may seem incredible, but Harriette Thompson brushes off the praise, “So many young people say ‘I’m running just because of you,’” she says, “I think, well I’m glad I’m good for something!” Not just good for something, Harriette, you are great.