Johnson, of San Jose, Calif., completed her 25th run in the marathon on Sunday. She stumbled and hit her head near the 20th mile, but still managed to complete the race and carry out her annual interview with the ‘Today’ show’s Al Roker the next day. ‘At least she was running, the way she wanted to go,’ said her daughter Diana Boydston.
Her race is run.
Joy Johnson, the oldest woman to compete in the ING New York City Marathon on Sunday, died in her sleep the next day, her sneakers still laced on her feet.
The 86-year-old athlete, who had said she wanted to die running, was found on her hotel bed Monday afternoon.
“At least she was running, the way she wanted to go,” said her daughter, Diana Boydston.
The San Jose, Calif., resident had finished the marathon Sunday, despite taking a tumble around the 20th mile of the 26.2-mile race.
Her sister, Faith Anderson, 83, accompanied her fleet-footed sister to New York and said Johnson hit her head on the roadway.
Medics wanted to bring Johnson to the hospital, but she wouldn’t be deterred from completing her 25th New York City Marathon and crossed the finish line with a time of seven hours, 57 minutes and 41 seconds.
On Monday, Johnson and her sister made their annual postmarathon trek to the “Today” show to watch the live broadcast from Rockefeller Center. Johnson shook weatherman Al Roker’s hand and showed him her medal, something she had done after every race.
When they returned to the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown, Johnson said she was tired and went to rest. She never woke up again.
Johnson died from complications of hitting her head and the blood-thinning medication she took for a minor heart flutter, officials said. The former gym teacher, who took up running on a whim after retiring a quarter-century ago, had been the oldest woman running New York’s marathon since 2011. And though age had slowed her, Johnson still always ran for her personal best.
This year, WPIX reporter Magee Hickey ran the race alongside Johnson and said Tuesday that when she asked to take a picture with her near the finish line, the octogenarian was concerned the stop would cost her time.
In a prerace interview, Johnson said she planned to run at her own pace and would walk when tired.
“I’ll be at the back of the pack, but I don’t mind,” she said. “I just praise the Lord I can get out of bed each morning and run. A lot of people my age are in wheelchairs.”
In the weeks leading up to Sunday’s marathon, Johnson said she followed her daily routine: coffee, Bible lesson, 8-mile run. On some days, she also did 150 pushups. In her earlier running days, Johnson would log 10- to 15-mile daily runs. And at the top of her game in the early 1990s, Johnson completed the marathon in about five hours.
Something of a celeb in the running community, Johnson had runners 40 years her junior asking to take photos with her Saturday.
“I always say I’m going to run until I drop,” she had said then. “I’m going to die in my tennis shoes. I just don’t know when I’m going to quit.”