Oldest Woman to Finish NYC Marathon Dies the Following Day

Illustration for article titled Oldest Woman to Finish NYC Marathon Dies the Following Day

This is both very sad and kinda lovely: Joy Johnson, 86, finished Sunday’s New York City Marathon for the 25th time, making her the oldest finisher in the race. The very next day, she laid down to rest in her hotel room, and passed away.


She fell at mile 20 and hit her head, but insisted on finishing the race, like a true runner. Which I am not, but I know quite a few, and that sounds just like them.

“I always say I’m going to run until I drop,” Johnson was quoted as saying the day before the race. “I’m going to die in my tennis shoes. I just don’t know when I’m going to quit.”


“At least she was running, the way she wanted to go,” said Johnson’s daughter, Diana Boydston. Tear.


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I'm honestly confused at why almost everyone is calling this a beautiful story. Yes, this woman's life story and her passion and commitment are incredibly inspiring, but the fact that she died is most definitely not "lovely." I understand that everyone will die and that dying at an old age doing what you love is probably the best way to go. But that doesn't make this woman's death lovely.

Maybe I'm biased because everyone in my family lives into their 90s, but 86 doesn't seem all that ancient to me. For all we know she could have lived well into her 90s but died years too early because of a head injury. To me that is tragic.