The golden girl getting faster

73-year old Jeannie Rice is racking up world marathon records as if they were race medals!

The Korean-born US citizen from Ohio began running at the age of 35 when she felt she’d gained a few pounds after a vacation back to Seoul and thought jogging would be the best way to lose it.

Fast-forward nearly 40 years and the semi-retired real estate agent is a force to be reckoned with in any marathon field!

In 2018, aged 70, she smashed her age category world marathon record at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon with a 3:27:50 performance. She then went three minutes better than her own record the following year at the BMW BERLIN marathon (3:24:38). She also holds the world record in her age group for the half marathon (1:37:07) and 10 miles (1:11:41).

“The first ever race I did back in the 80s was a five-mile event and I placed fourth in my age group. This gave me the drive to train and start competing with my peers.

“My first marathon was the Cleveland Marathon in 1983 where I ran 3:45 and six months later I managed to get a Boston qualifying time at the Columbus Marathon with a 3:16 effort.”

With a natural talent and a competitive streak Jeannie averages 50 miles a week all-year round and increases that to 70 miles when she has a marathon in her schedule.

“I have not cut down much on the volume of miles as I aged. If I add it all up, I have run around the globe three times and I am currently three-quarters of the way on the fourth lap. This equates to approximately 93,000 miles in 37 years.”

It wasn’t just Jeannie’s slight weight gain that motivated her to get running.

“I was inspired to do my first marathon after watching the first women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Joan Benoit Samuelson won the gold medal, and I was so excited and enjoyed watching her running [so much] that I had to try it for myself. She has been my idol ever since, and I got to meet her a few years back in Cleveland which was very special for me.”

Does she have a secret recipe for her success?

“I used to do weights for my upper body, never my legs as I figured my legs get enough of a workout with all the miles I do. I am an avid downhill skier and I golf as often as I can, which includes a lot of walking, and I enjoy swimming too.

“In terms of what I eat, I grew up on rice, fish and vegetables and I’ve never liked meat. My favorite meal is still grilled salmon and a green salad. I am not crazy about sweet foods, and I probably weigh about five pounds less than I did when I was teenager.”

Jeannie has also been very lucky in her running career when it comes to injuries.

“All the years and all the miles, and I have never had a running injury. I know I am very lucky. I have fallen a few times and hurt my knees on the concrete roads, but I have never had any injuries where I’ve needed to take medication or have surgery. Long may it continue!”

Her injury-free career may in part be due to her dedication and discipline with training which is quite remarkable.

“Running is a huge part of my life, and it’s the main part of my daily routine. I go to bed early around 9pm, wake up early every morning around 5am, have a cup of coffee and get out the door six days a week to run.

“I train and compete with much younger men, so I forget how old I am, and we never talk about age. We talk about training, racing and nutrition.  I know I am old enough to be their grandmother, but it doesn’t matter. My running does the talking – In the 2019 Berlin Marathon, my time was two minutes faster than 1st place in my age group for [the] men.”

One-star shy of collecting her Six Star medal, Jeannie’s journey was put on hold, like many others, when the Tokyo Marathon could not go ahead in 2020.

“It wasn’t until I had done Boston several times and then completed Chicago, New York City and Berlin that I thought I should really go for it. I plan to run in Tokyo in 2022 and not only will I get my Six Star medal, but I also hope to win my age division as I have won them in all the other Majors except London.

“So of course, I also want to win my age group title in London and plan to run there again next year if I can. The other item on my list of goals is to compete in the AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championships. I wasn’t able to commit to being there this year as I had my sights set on Tokyo, but hopefully I can make it there in the next few years.

Jeannie lives by a mantra of ‘never underestimate your ability’ and has learned a lot about mental toughness, motivation and determination through her years of running.

So, what advice would she give to younger athletes who also want to be lifetime runners?

“I would say: Stay fit and healthy with a controlled and steady diet. Don’t be disappointed and don’t give up when the results are not there. Be patient and keep trying. Run with your friends and make it a fun activity.”

* Note: Always consult a physician and get a full health evaluation prior to marathon training. Even if athletes appear healthy, or to have a disorder under control, underlying medical conditions could exist.  

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