Joy Johnson, 86, a Duluth native, ran her last marathon last weekend.
She loved the sport so much, the New York Post said, that her common refrain was “I want to die running.”
She almost did. She tripped and hit her head in the 20th mile of the New York Marathon on Sunday, refused treatment, finished the race, visited the Today Show on Monday, went back to the hotel and never woke up after she went to sleep.
“She did what she wanted,” her sister Faith Anderson, 83, of Norwood Young America, Minn., said.
This year, radio reporter Magee Hickey ran alongside her to interview her as she ran, and helped her across the finish line about eight hours after the race started.
Joy seemed a bit confused, but mumbled that she wanted to keep moving forward, she was worried about her time this year. She wanted to cross that finish line as soon as possible.
I told her I wasn’t worried about time because this was my first marathon and my goal was just to cross the finish line as part of the DetermiNation Team of the American Cancer Society. I told her I was raising money for cancer research because I am a cancer survivor and I had lost my wonderful mother to colon cancer.
I remembered thinking I am not sure she heard or understood everything I said. But as I crossed the finish line, I thought she could be my mother, who, had she lived as long, would have been 90 years old this year.
After we crossed the finish line, her helper said Joy needed to go have that bleeding cut on her forehead looked at. And she was whisked away.
But seconds before, I gave Joy a quick hug and told her I would never forget that I crossed the finish line with such a brave, incredible and determined person. I know I told her I hoped I could run a marathon when I am her age.
She became more of a celebrity marathoner last year after the Wall St. Journal profiled her.
She’ll reportedly be buried in Duluth.