She was born on Christmas Day 1926. On November 3, 2013 Joy Johnson crossed the finish line of the NYC marathon. It was the 25th time that she ran this marathon, holding the record of being the oldest woman to ever complete it. She was 86 years old.

And that is not even the most interesting part of her story.

I think that the most compelling part of her story is that she didn’t even start to run at all until she was 59 years old and ran her first marathon at the age of 62.

 
 

Joy decided to start running when she retired; a time when most people are thinking of slowing down. She knew that she didn’t want to become a sedentary person as she got older. She never wanted to take it easy and fade away.

She fell in love with running the day she started.

Joy said that she was always in good shape, but decided to run because she wanted to try something brand new. She never set out to be a marathon runner. In fact, she said that if you told her the day that she started running that she would run the NYC marathon in the next couple years, she wouldn’t have believed you.

Life Often Takes You on a Surprising Journey

That is the interesting thing about life. When you start something and love it, you don’t know where it will take you. You don’t know what will develop or how it will impact your life. Joy Johnson said the day that she crossed the finish line of that first marathon, she was hooked. It made her feel she was part of something important.

Joy ran over 70 marathons in 25 years in different locations, but the NYC marathon was very special to her. It was her favorite. She thought that NYC was magical.

She was often asked how long will she keep running? The answer was always the same. “Until the day I die”. Joy ran her last NYC marathon on Nov 3, 2013. She fell at mile 20 and hit her head on the ground. Other runners came to her aid and tried to talk her into going to the hospital. She refused. She said that she was OK, she felt fine and wanted to finish the race. And she did. Unfortunately, Joy passed away the following day.

So What Can We Learn from This Wonderful Woman?

  • It is never too late to start something new and fresh, to fall in love with a new passion, purpose, or hobby.
  • It is never too late to have a renewed sense of accomplishment and to enjoy the excitement of the challenge.
  • Always embrace life and pursue it with enthusiasm no matter how old you are.

And most important:

  • Know that inner fire, that inner drive to do more and become more is ageless. It is yours from the time you were born until the end. Honor it and live a full life that you design on your own terms.

As Joy would say, always live in a world of possibilities.


I know it sounds simple, but she would say that it is the very best part of being alive.


Thank you Joy for the inspiration. I would have loved meeting you.

What challenges do you want to pursue that you have been putting off? What brings you happiness and purpose? Please join the conversation.

Terry ArztTerry Arzt is a life and transition coach. She is the author of the eBook, A Definitive Guide for Starting Over, which is available as a free download on her website. She works with women who want to, need to or have been forced to go through a life transition. Terry gives the support, confidence and inspiration they need to move forward and to create a life they want or desire.

Let's Have a Conversation!