Nikita Richardson
June 01, 2015 9:55 am

It’s never too late to pick up a new hobby. Just ask 92-year-old Harriette Thompson, who yesterday became the oldest person to ever complete a full marathon.

Thompson could be described as something of a late bloomer, beginning her amateur running career at the age of 76 after a friend’s prompting. Since then, the mother of five has run in the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon every year with the exception of 2013 when she was undergoing cancer treatment for squamous cell carcinoma.

Cancer has loomed large in Thompson’s life for years now: In January, it claimed the life of Sydnor, her husband of 67 years, as well as the lives of many friends and family members. But rather than be intimidated by the disease, Thompson has faced it head on — and raised more than $100,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in the process.

“That makes it personal, something that I really feel is important,” Thompson told Runner’s World.

Because of her age Thompson has become something of a celebrity in the running circuit. “Since I’m so old, everbody wants to have their picture taken with me,” she told Runner’s World. To make sure she was able to finish the race, Thompson’s son encouraged her not to stop for every photo.

After finishing this year’s marathon Thompson told reporters, “I’m fine, they’re really pampering me here.”

At Sunday’s marathon, Thompson spent some time at the starting line with Meb Keflezighi, winner of the 2009 New York Marathon and the 2014 Boston Marathon, before finishing up the race with an unofficial time of 7:24:36. That time (not even her best!) put her well ahead of 92-year-old Gladys Burrill, who was three months younger than Thompson is now when she set the previous world record (for the oldest marathon runner) at the Honolulu Marathon in 2010.

“I keep thinking, ‘I don’t deserve this [attention],’ but if it helps or if it encourages anybody, it makes me feel good,” Thompson said. “I think if I can do it, anybody can do it, because I wasn’t trained to be a runner. But I have also found that it’s very invigorating. I feel like a million dollars when I’m finished.”

Life hero? Life hero.

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