Joy Johnson


“She was 86, competing in the marathon for the 25th consecutive time. Even injured, she abided by one of her enduring rules for any race, which was to smile down the homestretch, aware of the roving race photographers and believing it never served anyone to be caught in a grimace.

Joy Johnson crossed the finish line at the New York City Marathon this year nearly eight hours after she began. Of the 50,266 people to finish, she was among the very last — wearing a pair of Nikes and a navy blue bow pinned neatly in her hair, leaning on a stranger for support. Her forehead was bloodied in a fall she took at around Mile 20…Johnson, who was raised on a Minnesota dairy farm and was given to cheery understatement, waved off any concern. “I wasn’t watching where I was going,” she told her sister shortly after finishing. “It looks just awful, but I’m fine.”

…she herself didn’t have an exercise regimen. Until one day in 1985, when she and her husband were newly retired and their four children all grown, Johnson, who was 59, took a three-mile walk and found it energizing. Soon she tried jogging and enjoyed that even more…As a senior citizen, she ran an average of three marathons a year, buttressed by dozens of shorter races, always with a bow in her hair. Her home in San Jose grew so cluttered with running medals and trophies that she began storing some of them in the garage.

Early the next morning, looking cheery, with her medal around her neck and a blue kerchief over her head, the right side of her face swaddled in bandages, Joy Johnson waited in the crowd outside NBC Studios to say hello, as she did postmarathon every year, to Al Roker (“a nice young man,” she called him) from the “Today” show…”

I won’t be a spoiler.  Be sure to read this article and how it finishes: Joy Johnson, a Marathoner to the End


  • Elise, thank you for sharing.  Inspiring. How do you define grace and class: Joy Johnson.
  • Image & Article:


  1. I knew the ending, but oh, so wanted it to be different…


  2. You could see that ending coming. What a gift to do what you love to the end.


  3. I too knew the ending, but like Mimi, hoped for a different outcome. Though I suspect, it ended exactly the way she wanted……


  4. I love how you did this post, David. And now I love Joy, and hold her in my heart, going forward.


  5. she died exactly as she lived, it was her moment and she accepted and embraced it in peace.


  6. A true finisher, running for the sheer joy of it–rest in peace, Joy.


  7. I, too, wished for a different ending- but what an inspiration! I am sure she found great joy in those 25 years of running! Living With Passion! That’s what it is all about. The final run may have killed her, but the 25 years of running may have saved her! Thanks for sharing, Dave.


  8. Yes…to live a life with such grace. Thanks for sharing this story David.


  9. The running probably kept her going for all those years. Most likely if she hadn’t fallen, she’d still be here today. Amazing woman.


  10. Alex Jones says:

    I have been in races and often the photos of my face reaching the finishing line is like a dog had bitten me on the bum.


  11. Incredible woman who lived with grace!


  12. Reblogged this on MadeleineMaya.


  13. Did not expect the ending :(…


  14. But her life is inspirational though :)… It’s people like this from whom you learn to live again….


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: