In 2003, at 69 years old, Ginette Bedard made a choice that would impact the rest of her life. Bedard, originally from Metz, France, registered for her first marathon: the TCS New York City Marathon.
While new to the racing scene, Bedard was hardly a novice to the sport. This mother of two had been running for approximately 30 years before deciding to tackle the 26.2 mile-distance. Her initial hesitation stemmed from intimidation, fearing she was not good enough or fast enough to enter a marathon.
After talking to a friend, she was encouraged to think otherwise. “They told me: ‘What do you care, as long as you see the finish line,’ and that triggered me. And from that time on, I’ve been running [a marathon] every year,” said Bedard, who is now 86 and has completed nearly 330 New York Road Runners (NYRR) races.
Now Bedard, who moved to New York in 1962 with her husband, a Canadian airman, is gearing up for her 17th consecutive TCS New York City Marathon. On Sunday, November 3, she’ll traverse the city’s five boroughs with 50,000 other runners, including her son Gery. Both are part of NYRR’s Team #MovedMe, a group of 26 inspiring runners and families completing this year’s race.
Despite her late start to racing, she’s realized overwhelming success. During the 2008 TCS New York City Marathon, Bedard set the 75 to 79-year-old women’s U.S. marathon record, with a time of 4:08:31. Over a decade later, Bedard hasn’t stopped shattering records. In 2018, Bedard was the oldest woman to cross the finish line of the TCS New York City Marathon.
“You can underestimate yourself and think all of those people running are superhumans. But I found out, I’m just like the others, not any better, not any worse,” said Bedard, who is quite modest when it comes to her accolades and accomplishments.
To achieve these results, there are no rest days for Bedard. She runs every day, rain or shine, for two hours. For this grandmother of two, that amounts to approximately 10 miles a day and 70 miles each week.
Every day Bedard follows the same routine: she wakes up, she drinks coffee, and by 9:00am, she is running along the sandy shoreline near her home in Howard Beach, Queens.
If it’s cold, she wears more clothing. She doesn’t succumb to boredom or fatigue. Simply put, there is no valid excuse to miss a run.
This sense of dedication was present even before she started completing races. “I used to wake up every morning at 3:30am to run before work,” said Bedard, who retired from Alitalia airlines in the 1990’s.
Though Bedard logs most of her miles solo, she acknowledges the motivating benefits of running with others. “It’s very nice to have somebody running with you, it’s more encouraging, it’s very good. No man is an island, even for running. You have to run with somebody else,” said Bedard, who used to run with her sister and her husband, before he passed away five years ago.
Never Come Back Sorry
While running is deeply entrenched in her daily routine, it doesn’t always come easily for Bedard. If she is struggling or lacking in motivation, she thinks about how she will feel post-run.
“If I only do one hour, I come home, and I’m not happy. To make your mind happy, you do it. You never come back sorry,” said Bedard, who views running as her “healthy addiction.”
And even though Bedard has completed hundreds of races, she still experiences pre-race jitters. To help quell her nervousness, she uses a similar tactic and focuses on the finish line.
“Every time I feel the same way. But I walk and I run until I see the finish line, and I am happy. It’s a little stressful, but it’s worth it,” said Bedard, who also does sit-ups and push-ups every day.
Listen to Your Body (Even When It Asks for Wine and Ice Cream)
Some may view her routine as a bit extreme, but Bedard is deeply in tune with her body.
She doesn’t adhere to any fancy diets. Instead, her motto is “everything in proportion,” which includes drinking wine, eating cheese and indulging in ice cream.
“I listen to my body. My body said okay, you can do it, so that’s what I’m doing. I have no problems, so I’m going to do it every year until the end,” said Bedard, who has never experienced a running-related injury.
Throughout the years, Bedard’s goals have evolved and changed, but one thing has remained constant: her love of running.
“It’s a big achievement in life, being able to do this at my age. I love every bit of it; it’s mentally and physically very good for you. And hopefully I’m going to be an example for others to do it,” said Bedard.
A Better Quality of Life
“It’s an honor to be able to share Ginette’s story, as it fully embodies the TCS New York City Marathon’s It Will Move You campaign and represents New York Road Runners’ mission to help and inspire people through running,” said Michael Capiraso, president and CEO of NYRR. “We are proud to recognize Ginette’s tireless devotion to running—she’s a true inspiration to all.”
Although she’s already inspired many, Bedard is on a mission to motivate countless others to follow in her footsteps. “I want more people—and women—to run. You don’t know until you try how beautiful it is, how important it is. Getting involved in running is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. If you do what I do, you will have a better quality of life,” said Bedard, who proudly claims she can still fit into the bikini she wore when she was 16.
But even while touting the life-changing benefits of running, Bedard is the first to admit that it is not always easy. “It takes a lot of willpower, dedication, determination and everything in moderation. But you have got to do it!” said Bedard.
Bedard is a huge advocate that anyone can run and race, no matter their age, insisting that people just need to try.
“In order to get somewhere, you’ve got to be like the turtle and stick your neck out. I’m a turtle, I stuck my neck out, and I never stopped,” said Bedard, who intends to run until she’s physically unable to do so.