Go Granny! Two Marathoners Speed Past 90

Go Granny! Two Marathoners Speed Past 90

posted in: Athletes | 4

I’ve been so pleased with myself. Inspired by the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (review to come), I reignited my exercise program.

Every morning, I walk a brisk mile, then practice yoga or weight training for 40 minutes. Last week, if I count my walks to and from the bus, I did 10 miles total!

Then Guinness Book of World Records named 92-year-old Gladys Burrill the Oldest Female Marathon Finisher. Gladys power-walked through the 2010 Honolulu Marathon last December in 9 hrs 53 mins. Her typical off-season training schedule: 45 miles a week.

It took a puff of wind from my sail, but gave me something to aspire to!

The local newspaper nicknamed her the “Gladyator,” but friends call her Glady for her upbeat attitude. She was born in 1918, two months after World War I ended. Her father, who worked in the Colorado mines, developed black lung disease not long after. Glady grew up on a farm in Washington and contracted polio at age 11. “So much of my life was spent in poverty,” she says. “It’s just the way it was.”

Glady has been a multi-engine aircraft pilot, a desert hiker and a horseback rider. She ran her first Honolulu Marathon in 2004 at age 86, and has completed five of her last seven.

Her record-breaking finish in 2010 came after two unsuccessful tries. In 2008, her husband of 69 years and biggest supporter passed away just days before the race. She decided to run in his memory, but understandably couldn’t make it. In 2009, she pulled out at mile 16 with stomach cramps.

Glady doesn’t plan to run the Honolulu Marathon again this year, but intends to keep walking. She still does six days a week, logging between 30 and 50 miles.

Her advice for healthy longevity?

Eat healthfully and exercise. So many young people don’t realize the importance of exercise. Just put one foot in front of the other.

She also says, “It’s so important to think positive. It’s easy to get discouraged and be negative.”

Former Record Holder Jenny Wood Allen (1911-2010)

Sadly, a few weeks after the 2010 Honolulu Marathon, the former world record holder, Jenny Wood Allen, passed away at age 99.

Jenny ran her first marathon at age 71 in her native Dundee, Scotland. Sir Richard Branson sponsored her in the New York Marathon and she completed sixteen London Marathons.

In 1999, at age 87, she ran the London Marathon in 7 hours 14 mins 46 secs and earned the Guinness World Record for Oldest Female Marathon Finisher. She broke her own record three years later at age 90, when she walked the London Marathon for the last time.

Ironically, Jenny, a former Member of Parliament, was forced from politics at age 76 when the Dundee East Conservative Association deselected her for being “too old.” She was vocal about her disgust. “A lot of the members of the selection committee I could have run rings round.” No doubt.

Jenny always said she would run “til I drop.” She wrote her epitaph in advance:

“I have done my best in the race.
I have finished the course and kept the faith.”

Go Granny! Two Marathoners Speed Past 90
Jenny Wood Allen, age 90

And that’s why I’m getting up tomorrow morning, lacing up my tennies, and heading out the door!


Gladys Burrill: Oregon Live
Jenny Wood Allen: The Courier UK

4 Responses

  1. Werner
    | Reply

    Hi Elle B.

    I found you through Larry’s site (Storyfix).

    I’m so glad I found your site. After seeing so many 30 and 40-somethings talk about how “old” they are, it disgusted me that they thought and talked that way. I decided in my 30’s that would never be me.

    I’ve always drawn inspiration from people who never give up on life – at any age. I have many stories and mentors to support this inspiration.

    Even back in my late 20’s, I saw the benefit of staying active versus “retiring”. I was determined there and then to never retire. As one of my 89-year-old friends told me a couple of years ago, “Werner, when you stop moving – you start dying.”

    I turn 50 later this year, but that’s just a number to me. My fiancee is 52 and you wouldn’t know it by the way she looks, talks and moves. She’s so young at heart and has more energy than gals half her age (I can say the same about her 92-year-old landlady). She makes me feel younger than I did before. We so thoroughly enjoy our lives.

    May you always keep moving!

    • Debra Eve

      Thanks, Werner! I agree completely. One subject I plan to write about here is “anti-retirement” — transitioning into what you really want to do and keeping at it. My aunt “retired” from financial management at age 65, but kept a few of her favorite clients. They fly her around the world to manage their money and property. She just turned 85 and is as sharp as a whip! It’s the only way to go…

    • Werner

      Boo-Yah! I Love it!

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