(June 2021) Jeannie Rice, now 73, holds the single-age world record for a marathon by a 71-year-old woman. She set that mark, 3:24:48, at Berlin in 2019, improving by 3 minutes on her 70-year-old time (3:27:50) the previous fall in Chicago. “I’m more competitive than ever,” says Rice, who laughs that she gets faster as she gets older. She also knows there are no short cuts to training and works hard, putting in the weekly miles and the speed workouts to meet her goals. This October's Tokyo Marathon (her 124th overall) is next on her list. It will give her all six of the Abbot World Marathon Majors. Rice, who was born in Korea and came to the states as a 19-year-old, splits her time between Ohio and Florida.
Career-Occupation? I am a semi-retired real estate agent. I like to keep busy and also keep my own schedule so I can get in my training.
When did you start running and why? I started running in the summer of 1983 when I was 35. I had been visiting family in Seoul, Korea, for 3weeks and put on a few unwanted pounds. I thought that jogging would be the best and fastest way to lose the weight. I had only been jogging for two months when a friend talked me into entering a local 5-mile race. I placed fourth in my age division and thought I could do better. I didn’t realize I was so competitive!
Did you have an early inspiration or role model? That would be Joan Benoit Samuelson. She has been my idol ever since I watched her win the 1984 Olympic Marathon. I had the privilege of meeting her when she was a guest speaker at the Cleveland Marathon.
How much did you run in your peak years? I average 50 miles a week year round and increase that to 70 when I am training for a marathon. I haven’t reduced my mileage as I age.
What were some of your best running achievements? I have so many memorable runs/races.
1) First marathon, 1983 Cleveland when I ran a 3:45. Six months later I BQed at the Columbus Marathon in 3:16.
2) 1985: Ist Boston!
3) Celebrated my 30-years of running by running 2013 Boston, winning my age division. Sadly, that was the year of the bombing so that overshadows my win.
4) 2017: Broke the USA Marathon Record for my age in Columbus, 3:29:14.
5) 2018: Broke the World Marathon Record for my age in Chicago by 7 minutes (3:27:50).
6) 2019: Broke my own world record in Berlin by 3 minutes, 3:24:48.
7) 2019: I set the Half Marathon World Record, 1:37:07 and the ten-mile record, 1:11:41, for my age.
Any estimate of your total lifetime miles? I’ve calculated that I have run 93,000 miles in 37 years, which is the equivalent of running around the globe 3 times and I am on my fourth lap around!
How much are you running and cross-training now? I cross-train my upper body with lightweights. I think my legs get enough of a workout! I am an avid downhill skier and also enjoy golf as often as I can. I like to swim as well, but not in the ocean. I like to do laps in a pool.
Any recent races? I ran a local 5K last month in 22:17.
Has your diet and weight changed much through the years? Yes. I weigh about 5 pounds less than I did as a teen. I never did like meat. I grew up eating rice, fish, seafood and all types of vegetables. My favorite meal is a fresh field green salad with grilled salmon. I’m not crazy about sweets so have a low-fat diet.
Injuries or health issues through the years? I have to say I have been very blessed and lucky regarding injuries. In all my years and miles I have never had a running injury. I’ve fallen a few times and hurt my knee but it healed itself with some time off.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from being a lifetime runner? Mental toughness, discipline, motivation, and determination.
What three tips would you give other hopeful lifetime runners?
1) Stay fit and healthy. Maintain a good diet.
2) Don’t be disappointed and give up when results are not what you want. Be patient and keep trying.
3) Run with friends and/or a group to make it fun.
Has running helped you with the aging process? Definitely!! I train with much younger men and women and compete against age divisions with a better time. In Berlin 2019, my time was 2 minutes faster than the 1st place male in my age division. When I run I forget how old I am. We never talk about age with my running partners although I am old enough to be their grandmother! I don't believe in setting limits on yourself.