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Oldest Woman to Run NYC Marathon Dies One Day After Race


“I always say I’m going to run until I drop."

Joy Johnson spoke with Al Roker Monday after completing the New York City marathon. Later that day she died in her sleep. (Image source: NBC Today Show video screenshot)

Joy Johnson, who at 86 years old became the oldest woman to compete in the New York City Marathon Sunday, said before the race that she planned on dying in her tennis shoes -- a nod to the fact that she wouldn't let her age stop her from running.

A day later, after falling and hitting her head around mile 20 in the 26.2-mile race, the San Jose, Calif., woman died in her sleep from complications associated with her injury.

“I always say I’m going to run until I drop,” Johnson told the New York Daily News before the race. “I’m going to die in my tennis shoes. I just don’t know when I’m going to quit.”

Monday after the marathon, her face bandaged from the fall, Johnson appeared on NBC's "Today" to talk about the race, which she completed in 7 hours, 57 minutes and 41 seconds.

joy johnson Joy Johnson spoke with Al Roker Monday after completing the New York City Marathon. She died in her sleep later that day. (Image source: NBC)

Then, according to the Daily News, she and her sister went back to their Midtown Manhattan hotel room to rest. But Johnson didn't wake up.

The Daily News reported that Johnson was taken to a local hospital where doctors determined she died from complications associated with her head injury and a blood-thinning medication she was taking.

Watch Johnson's daughter speak about her mother and her accomplishments with KPIX-TV:

Johnson's daily routine leading up to the race included drinking coffee, doing a Bible lesson and going for an eight-mile run. Some days she would even do up to 150 pushups, the Daily News reported.

Johnson didn't start running until she was 59 years old, but after that averaged three marathons a year, according to the Today Show.

“She considered everyone her friend,” Diana Boydston, Johnson's daughter, told "Today." “I think she would be happy with this chain of events: to run her beloved New York marathon, talk to her buddy Al, be there with her sister Faith. She told everyone she loved them before the race, and she was at peace.”



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