After finishing the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon to set record, the whole world wants a piece of Harriette.
Before 92-year-old Harriette Thompson hopped aboard her 11 a.m. San Diego flight Monday bound for home in Charlotte, N.C., there was business to attend.
There was a chat with famed PBS journalist Charlie Rose. CNN and the ABC Evening News rang for interviews. After stopping for breakfast at the Bayfront Hilton hotel, Thompson was treated to a special hand-crafted dessert by the chef.
“He made it look so sweet, like a figure,” says Thompson of the strawberry and filling creation. “I had to take a picture for my grandchildren.”
When she checked into her airport gate, an attendant said, “Are you the woman who ran the marathon?”
Says Thompson, “And everyone wants my picture.”
When you set history, the public wants to share it with you. And what Thompson accomplished Sunday at the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & Half Marathon was historic, becoming, at 92 years and 65 days, the oldest woman to run a marathon. She completed the 26.2-mile trek from Balboa Park to Petco Park in 7 hours, 24 minutes and 36 seconds.
One of the congratulatory phone calls she received was from family members of Gladys Burrill. It was Burrill’s record that Thompson broke. Burrill was 92 years and 19 days old when she ran the Honolulu Marathon in 2010.
“They want me to meet her,” says Thompson. “That would be fun.”
One of the most amazing and lasting aspects of Thompson’s running is the impact she’s having on the world. In a day and age when we’re bombarded with news about the obesity of America, Thompson is moving people to move.
When Thompson crossed the finish line Sunday, 21-year-old Charo Rodriguez was there, handing out medals.
“After watching that,” said Rodriguez, “I’ve got no excuses.”
Bill “Sweet Lou” Pinella is a long-time newspaper journalist. He’s 69, lives in Carlsbad and read about Thompson’s attempt to become the oldest woman to run 26.2 miles. After running Saturday’s Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego 5K, Pinella decided he’s training for a half marathon.
“Just for the mere fact that if she can run a marathon at 92, Jesus Christ, at 68 I can do half of what she does,” says Pinella. “I don’t have a boiler (big gut) yet, but if I don’t start doing something I’m going to have a boiler.”
Throughout Sunday’s marathon, runners kept screaming, “Harriette! Harriette!” wanting to shake hands with the famous nonagenarian.
“I got tired of hearing my name,” jokes Thompson.
Running alongside Thompson, helping shield her, was Thompson’s son, Brenneman.
“So many people told my mother they were running because of her,” recalls Brenneman. “Some were heavy, some were older and felt they couldn’t do anything. My mother inspired them.”
A Chinese man in a wheelchair told Harriette after Sunday’s marathon that he began entering races because of Thompson’s example. Now he helps other wheelchair-bound people train and do races. He came to San Diego specifically to meet Thompson.
“That was the most striking example,” says Brenneman.
Of all the attention, she says, “It won’t last forever, but I will enjoy it while it lasts.”
And about inspiring so many people, she adds, “At my age, to inspire anybody, that’s nice.”