This past Sunday, 94-year-old Harriette Thompson provided the latest example of age being nothing more than a number when she completed a half-marathon in San Diego.
But her story is somehow even more inspiring than that, as detailed in this lovely interview given to ESPN’s Aishwarya Kumar. Thompson not only became the oldest person to complete a half-marathon, she did so despite having very recently undergoing successful cancer treatments.
The avid runner was faced with two cancer battles last year – a form of skin cancer that ate away a hole in her right leg that required skin grafts, before a diagnosed facial cancer forced her to have mouth surgery in December.
Thompson’s battle with cancer extends beyond her own diagnosis; both of her parents, both of her brothers, and her husband have all died of various forms of the illness. So she’s been running and raising money for charity since 1999, setting multiple records along the way:
Running as part of Team in Training, she came across a woman in her choir collecting checks for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Thompson has been running, and setting records, ever since. She has finished 17 marathons, all at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego. She became the fastest woman over the age of 90 to finish a marathon in 2014 and the oldest woman to run a marathon in 2015.
And on Sunday, the 4-foot-11 92-pound Thompson completed her comeback, becoming the oldest woman to run a half-marathon at age 94 by finishing the 20th Synchrony Financial Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon in 3:42:56. To date, Thompson has also raised over $100,000 for cancer research.
Thompson is an inspirational figure, and the Q&A gives some very good insight as to why. Perhaps it’s best encapsulated with the closing exchange:
Q: Two years ago, you became the oldest woman to run a marathon. This year you became the oldest woman to complete a half-marathon. What has this process meant to you?
A: The whole process is very satisfying, because, I feel that in my age, if I can do anything worthwhile, that is a blessing. I am encouraged that people are inspired by it. I am very thankful that I have this opportunity to have a little bit of influence. I am a little bit surprised that my life has meant so much to different people. I have had people come up to me and said, “You’re the reason I am running,” and that makes me feel, “Maybe I am doing something right.”
Amazing is an overused word, especially in the online world, but it’s hard to think of a more appropriate way to describe Harriette Thompson.