She was a retired Physical Education teacher from San Jose, California. She had been a runner for over a quarter of a century. She’s one of a growing number of marathon runners who started running marathons after their 50th birthdays.
Joy Johnson had been doing this ritual of running the New York Marathon for the past 10 years or so, aside from other marathons. After she finished each race, she would line up outside the Today show and shake hands with weatherman Al Roker and show off her medal. She did just that at her 25th marathon last Sunday in New York. She finished in just under 8 hours.
Somewhere at the 20 mile mark, Ms. Johnson fell. She was seen to have promptly pulled herself up and resumed her run. She did not heed to the advise from onlookers and organizers to have herself checked. She even appeared at the Today show with bandages on her face.
On Monday afternoon, Joy Johnson was pronounced dead at 3:35 in the afternoon, at the Bellevue Hospital Center in New York. her injury at the marathon probably contributed greatly to this unexpected turn of events. She was due to celebrate her 87th birthday this December.
Joy has given various interviews in the past. In a 2008 interview, she told the WSJ that she “wanted to die running. That’s my goal.” And she did.
I hear about people like Joy and I am awed. I admire her tenacity. I admire how she has broken the stereotypical barriers for runners, aging, women, and more.
I have also talked on various occasions about all of us espousing the good life, of living to the max, of loading up on awesome experiences so that we can all look back smugly at a life well-lived. But, what about dying? What about a good death? I believe in a good death. (I mentioned it at my mother-in-law’s memorial.) I believe in defying the odds and going the way you want to go. In your terms.
Joy Johnson died running. In her running shoes. What a way to go! R.I.P. Joy!
- Oldest Female In NYC Marathon Dies Just A Day After Race (huffingtonpost.com)
- Joy Johnson, Oldest New York City Marathon “Streaker” Dies at 86 (nbcbayarea.com)