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Nonagenarian Races into Record Books at San Diego Marathon

At 91, Harriette Thompson became the oldest woman to complete the Rock 'n' Roll marathon.

At 91, Harriette Thompson became the oldest woman to complete the Rock 'n' Roll marathon.

This weekend, runner Harriette Thompson proved that age is just a number at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego. The 91-year-old cancer survivor became the second-oldest marathoner in US history, and, with a time of 7:07:42, claimed the record for the fastest finish by a woman 90 or older.

These are impressive stats, especially considering that Thompson had just completed a round of radiation treatment for squamous cell carcinoma on her legs. Though the burns are still visible, Thompson did not let that stop her from completing her 15th Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon since her running debut at age 76.

“I can’t believe how big a deal they’re making over me,” Thompson told reporters at the Charlotte Observer as Runner’s World, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Shape Magazine waited to interview her. “I felt like a queen for the day.”

Her average pace of 16:20 per mile was faster than an average healthy adult walks. It was that pace, combined with her ability to endure 26.2 miles in the sweltering 80-degree weather, that helped her complete the race well ahead of the previous record holder, Mavis Lindgren, who finished the 1997 Portland Marathon in 8:53:08 according to U.S.A. Track & Field.

“It wasn’t until around the 17th mile that I was going uphill, and I was thinking, ‘Oh, I wonder if I’m gonna make this,’ ” she explained to the Observer. “But the last few miles, I didn’t mind at all.”

For the North Carolina native, running has always been about more than just herself. Though she remains active to stay healthy, she competes in order to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. This year, the cause was particularly close to her heart after losing her 99-year-old brother to lymphoma. According to the team’s campaign director, her efforts have raised over $90,000 to date.

Though Thompson was excited to lie down and rest after completing Sunday’s race, she also expressed her plans to continue running and has no intention of missing next year’s event. “If I’m still here next year, I think I’ll probably be able to train better and be in better shape,” she said. “If I’m able, I’ll try again.”

Thompson also gave some final words of wisdom to NBC; “I guess I could say it’s never too late, and you feel wonderful if you—I’m sure that if you exercise, you certainly know the benefits of it.”

See FOX News San Diego’s coverage below: