Joy Johnson always said she was going to run until she dropped. She wasn’t kidding.
At 86 years old, Johnson was the oldest woman to complete the New York Marathon on Sunday. It was her 25th, and she completed it in about eight hours. Monday, she did an interview with the "TODAY" show, returned to her hotel to rest and never woke up. She was 86.
"I’m going to die in my tennis shoes," she told the New York Daily News on Saturday. "I just don’t know when I’m going to quit."
Johnson, of San Jose, Calif., had taken up running after retiring from her job as a gym teacher. She had always been active and wanted to stay that way, so she took up running. At her peak in the early 1990s, she would finish marathons in less than five hours. By this year, she mostly was happy to be there.
"I’ll be at the back of the pack, but I don’t mind," she said. “I just praise the Lord I can get out of bed each morning and run. A lot of people my age are in wheelchairs."
Of the 50,000 runners in Sunday’s marathon, just 31 were in their 80s.
Every day was the same: coffee, Bible, run. For lunch Saturday, the Daily News reported, she had a burger but passed on the fries, which was typical. Then the marathon.
"At least she was running," said Johnson’s daughter, Diana Boydston, "the way she wanted to go."