70-Year-Old Woman Makes Chicago Marathon Look Easy
For most of us, we scoff at the thought of "going for a run." For others, they thrive on enduring endless hours of training and doing what most of us simply couldn't.
If you paid attention to the Chicago Marathon, you saw Mo Farah win with a time of 2:05:11.
He is a quadruple Olympic gold medalist and he made that run look easy. Brigid Kosgei is a Kenyan runner who took the women's race running a 2:18:35 — making her the seventh-fastest marathoner of all time.
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One woman, named Jeannie Rice, is a 70-year old runner that lived in Mentor, Ohio, which is about 25 miles east of Cleveland. She ran the marathon in 3:27:50, which completely smashed the 70-plus women's world record of 3:35:29 that Helga Miketta of Germany set in 2013.
Jeannie is a realtor in the Cleveland area and felt great after the marathon. She was looking spry in her heels at work that Tuesday after the Sunday race.
Rice was born in Korea and settled in the United States in 1968 when she was 19. She took a trip back to Korea to visit her family in 1983 and she gained seven pounds.
Rice says "you go to visit cousins and aunts and they think we are starving in America. It's a feast every time we go. We had to eat to be polite. I came home, I’m 5-foot-2, and I’m a little chubby. I wanted to lose those few pounds.”
She decided to get more active and she took up running wearing some tennis shoes. She noticed early on that she had a knack for running as she would soon place in her age group at local races she would attend.
She was hooked.
She started her lifelong love of marathons in 1984 when she ran a 3:45:00 debut in Cleveland. In her second attempt in Columbus, Rice ran a 3:16:00. Skip forward to this last Chicago marathon and she's run 116 marathons, by her count.
She says the sport has taken her all over the world, including:
- Great Wall of China
- New Zealand
Rice trained for Chicago by running seven runs of at least 20 miles or more — usually 22 or 23 miles. She mentions that her weekly mileage reached about 65 miles. She would run at 5:30 a.m. with some friends — mentioning many of whom are men that are younger.
"That helps, running with stronger runners, she says."
She performs a lot of speedwork using 5K and 10Ks for practice. In August, she ran 6:37 for a road mile at the USATF masters championships.
Ohio isn't known for its amazing weather and it's warm winters, so in order to escape the cold and snow, she heads down to Naples, Florida for about five months of the year. This is great because there is a great running scene there.
Her drive to find others to run with comes from the racquetball she used to play.
You have to have a partner for that kind of stuff. Running, you compete against any age, gender, it's fun. You can beat the young kids." On top of running, she still golfs — with her best score of a 96 — and goes downhill skiing in the winter.
Rice says she doesn't feel 70 at all. She goes on to say "it's too bad the number is there. I'd rather be 50. I'm sure the time will come. I'm probably not going to be able to run like this when I'm 80."
Until then, she is doing all she can and setting ambitious goals. In fact, she plans to win her age group at each of the six World Marathon Majors. She's won Boston and Chicago, and the New York City Marathon is coming up next. She plans on visiting Berlin next year. Rice says "I ran London before, but I didn't win my division, so I have to go back. I don't want to just participate — I want to win."
She should win because in Chicago the second-place woman in the 70-plus class was 42 minutes behind her. Really, the only other woman who beat her was in the 60-year old class and that was Joan Benoit Samuelson — the 1984 Olympic gold medalist and former American record holder. She was 61 and ran a 3:12:13. Rice says "she's been my idol all of these years."
Speaking of idols, her two teen granddaughters are very proud of her. They tell friends "oh, my grandma runs 5Ks for fun, she runs marathons."
Other Marathon Records
Let's see how Rice stacks up against the other world records.
Women's Masters World Records
40 Age Group
- Lydia Cheromei Kogo (Kenya) - 40 - 2:23:31 - Shanghai
- Mariya Konovalova (Russia) - 40 - 2:22:27 - Nagoya
45 Age Group
- Catherine Bertone (Italy) - 45 - 2:28:34 - Berlin
- Tatyana Pozdnyakova (Ukraine) - 46 - 2:29:00 - Rhode Island
50 Age Group
- Tatyana Pozdnyakova (Ukraine) - 50 - 2:31:05 - Los Angeles
55 Age Group
- Rae Baymiller (US) - 55 - 2:52:14 - Chicago
60 Age Group
- Bernadine Portenski (New Zealand) - 60 - 3:01:30 - Queensland
- Claudine Marchadier (France) - 60 - 3:02:50 - La Rochelle
65 Age Group
- Emmi Luthi (Switzerland) - 65 - 3:12:56.6 - Zurich
70 Age Group
- Jeannie Rice (US) - 70 - 3:27:50 - Chicago
75 Age Group
- Yoko Nakano (Japan) - 76 - 3:53:42 - Otawara
80 Age Group
- Yoko Nakano (Japan) - 81 - 4:11:45 - Tokyo
85 Age Group
- Betty Jean McHugh (Canada) - 85 - 5:14:26 - Honolulu
90 Age Group
- Betty Jean McHugh (Canada) - 90 - 7:03:59 - Honolulu
- Mavis Lindgren (US) - 90 - 8:53:08 - Portland
10 Fastest Women Marathoners
- Paula Radcliffe (Great Britain) - 2:15:25 - London, 2003
- Mary Keitany (Kenya) - 2:17:01 - London, 2017
- Ruth Chepngetich (Kenya) - 2:17:08 - Dubai, 2019
- Worknesh Degefa (Ethiopia) - 2:17:41 - Dubai, 2019
- Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:17:56 - London, 2017
- Gladys Cherono (Kenya) - 2:18:11 - Berlin, 2018
- Brigid Kosgei (Kenya) - 2:18:20 - London, 2019
- Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya) - 2:18:31 - London, 2018
- Ruta Aga (Ethiopia) - 2:18:34 - Berlin, 2018
- Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) - 2:18:47 - Chicago, 2001
10 Fastest American Women Marathoners
- Deena Kastor - 2:19:36 - London, 2006
- Jordan Hasay - 2:20:57 - Chicago, 2017
- Shalane Flanagan - 2:21:14 - Berlin, 2014
- Joan Samuelson - 2:21:21 - Chicago, 1985
- Amy Cragg - 2:21:42 - Tokyo, 2018
- Emily Sisson - 2:23:08 - London, 2019
- Laura Thweatt - 2:25:38 - London, 2017
- Kara Goucher - 2:25:53 - New York City, 2008
- Des Linden - 2:25:55 - Olympic Marathon Trials, 2012
- Sara Hall - 2:26:20 - Ottawa, 2018
Wrapping It Up
The human body is capable of a lot of things if we properly train and push ourselves. Jeannie Rice is a great example of what staying active and pursuing goals can accomplish.