Syracuse University Magazine

Record Run

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Alumna Harriette Thompson becomes world’s oldest woman marathon finisher

It appears there is no stopping Harriette Line Thompson ’47 when it comes to crossing a finish line. At age 92, the Charlotte, North Carolina, resident and grandmother became the oldest woman ever to complete a marathon. On May 31, Thompson finished the Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego Marathon, covering the 26.2-mile course in 7 hours, 24 minutes, and 36 seconds. At 92 years and 65 days on race day, she eclipsed the previous record holder’s age by 46 days.

“I can’t believe I made it!” she told the Charlotte Observer. “I was really tired at one point. Around mile 21, I was going up a hill and it was like a mountain, and I was thinking, ‘This is sort of crazy at my age.’ But then I felt better coming down the hill. And my son Brenny [who accompanied her] kept feeding me all these wonderful carbohydrates that kept me going.”

Thompson has finished the California race 16 times, raising more than $100,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She is a cancer survivor who lost her husband, Judge Sydnor Thompson Jr. ’47, to the disease in January. A former concert pianist who earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, she ran her first marathon at age 76 and says she mentally plays piano pieces to help her endure the grueling distance. To compete in this year’s marathon, she also overcame a staph infection in one of her legs that hampered her training. And her new record isn’t the only one she has set. Last year, she motored through San Diego’s streets in 7:07:42—the fastest marathon finish ever by a woman older than 90.    —Jay Cox

2015 Getty Images/photo courtesy of Brenny Thompson