The oldest woman in Sunday's New York City Marathon died Monday, likely the result of a fall the 86-year-old runner suffered before completing the race for the 25th time.
Joy Johnson, a retired gym teacher from San Jose, died Monday afternoon at Bellevue Hospital Center, her daughter, Diana Boydston, told NBC Bay Area. Hours before, she enjoyed her yearly post-marathon ritual of shaking hands with Today show weatherman Al Roker and showing off her medal, this time sporting two bandages on her face.
"She wanted to die with her track shoes on," Boydston said Tuesday. "And she did. Literally."
Johnson, the oldest "streaker" — runners who compete in 15 straight races or more — struck her head when she fell about Mile 20. Boydston said her mother, who grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm, insisted on finishing the race and refused to go to the hospital. She completed the 26.2-mile course in about eight hours.
Of the more than 50,000 NYC marathoners, 31 were older than 80.
The 5-foot-5 Johnson took up running when she retired. She told the New York Daily News that her daily training in the weeks before the race consisted of coffee, Bible verses and an eight-mile run, plus 150 push-ups some days.
"I always say I'm going to run until I drop," she said Saturday in her hotel room. "I'm going to die in my tennis shoes. I just don't know when I'm going to quit."
"She was so happy, she was laughing," Daily News writer Rachel Levy, the last to interview Johnson, told NBC Bay Area. "She was so passionate about running. I left the interview thinking that I better get in better shape."