Harriette Thompson, Meb Keflezighi

91-year-old woman breaks marathon record

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source: Getty ImagesHarriette Thompson didn’t let age or cancer stop her from making history at the San Diego Marathon on Sunday.

Thompson, 91, broke the women’s 90-94 age-group marathon record when she crossed the finish in 7 hours, 7 minutes, 42 seconds.

She was still healing from squamous cell carcinoma radiation treatments as recently as one month before the marathon. Her white tights covered wounds on her legs. It wasn’t her first time battling cancer. She ran San Diego in 2010, 2011 and 2012 with an oral cancer that took all but one of her upper teeth and her jawbone, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Actually, Thompson shattered the previous 90-94 age-group record of 8:53:08, set by Mavis Lindgren in 1997. She came close to the men’s mark of 6:46:34.

Get this: Thompson didn’t take up marathon running until 15 years ago, at age 76.

“I started running because I had friends who were very ill from leukemia,” the Charlotte retirement community resident said. “A friend of mine was gathering money for the race, and she was going to run for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I decided, well, I could walk that. So I signed up, and I came out here in 1999 and ran my first marathon.”

Everybody in her family has died from leukemia or cancer, including the recent passing of her 99-year-old brother, she told NBC San Diego. She has raised more than $90,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society running 15 marathons, according to the Charlotte Observer.

She was given a special introduction before Sunday’s race and met Meb Keflezighi, the Boston Marathon winner and 2004 Olympic silver medalist.

Her longest training run/walk was five or six miles, and she told reporters wasn’t sure she would be able to finish Sunday. But she powered on with her son, Brenny, 55, by her side.

Thompson, reportedly a former concert pianist who played Carnegie Hall three times, was surrounded by media after completing the 26.2 miles in about 16:20/mile pace Sunday.

“I don’t deserve all this attention,” she said, according to competitor.com. “I feel relieved. But I’m interested in getting into a cold shower and falling into bed for a while.”

Thompson told reporters she would run the San Diego Marathon again next year, if she’s able.

“I can’t believe how big a deal they’re making over me,” she told the Charlotte Observer. “I felt like a queen for the day.”

Spain King Juan Carlos I and the Olympics

Alex Zanardi, auto racer turned Paralympic champion, has 5-hour surgery to rebuild face after crash

Alex Zanardi
AP
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SIENA, Italy (AP) — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi underwent a five-hour surgery Monday to reconstruct his face following a crash on his handbike last month.

It was the third major operation that Zanardi has had since he crashed into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event.

Dr. Paolo Gennaro of Santa Maria alle Scotte Hospital in Siena said the operation required three-dimensional digital and computerized technology that was “made to measure” for Zanardi.

“The complexity of the case was fairly unique, although this is a type of fracture that we deal with routinely,” Gennaro said in a hospital statement.

After the surgery, Zanardi was returned to the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma.

“His condition remains stable in terms of his cardio-respiratory status and grave in terms of his neurological status,” the hospital medical bulletin read.

The 53-year-old Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, has been on a ventilator since the crash.

Zanardi suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

Zanardi won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

Last month, Pope Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. The pope praised Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity.

Shawn Johnson East shares struggles with body image, prescription drugs

Shawn Johnson
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Shawn Johnson East, a 2008 Olympic gymnastics champion, detailed past struggles with body image and prescription drugs and reflected on her eating disorder as an elite athlete, to show there is hope to others in difficult situations.

“It all started with pregnancy and having my daughter,” East, who had daughter Drew in October, said on TODAY on Monday. “I had so many people asking me questions about how did pregnancy affect you mentally and how did you get your body back after having your daughter. I couldn’t answer that without giving a greater and a larger story.”

East first went public about her undiagnosed teenage eating disorders in 2015, three years after retiring from the sport. She said she limited herself to 700 calories per day and didn’t tell her parents.

In a June YouTube video, Johnson said she also binged and purged, including while dating future husband Andrew in the mid-2010s. And that she had depression and anxiety in 2011, when she returned to competition for the first time since the Beijing Games.

“I thought it would fix all of my problems,” East said of returning to gymnastics for a 2012 Olympic bid.

When East won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, she “hit a very low spot” going through puberty on national TV. She said she gained 15 pounds after the 2008 Olympics and started taking medications and drugs “to look like I did at the Olympics.” It included fad diets, diuretics and a three-week stretch of eating nothing but raw vegetables.

“Most pain of my entire life because I couldn’t digest anything,” she said.

At some point in 2011, East began feeling burned out. She was back to eating too few calories and overtraining. An unnamed USA Gymnastics doctor prescribed her Adderall “to lose more weight, have more energy and be more successful in gymnastics.” She took “heavy doses.”

“It helped my performances, but there were massive consequences to it,” she said. “I continued to compete into 2012, where I just started to get depressed.

“I was overdosing on Adderall. I was overdosing on any medication that wouldn’t be caught by USADA.”

Adderall was a banned substance in competition without a therapeutic use exemption, but was legal outside of competition.

“I was so controlled by other people’s opinions that I wouldn’t live up to that Olympic standard that I did anything to get it back and I could never have it back,” East said. “I didn’t learn that until later on.”

East’s mental hurdles re-emerged when she had a miscarriage in 2017. She blamed herself, believing her unhealthy lifestyle in the past was a contributor.

“Our natural inclination is to say, what did I do? And what did I do wrong?” she said. “It haunted me. I felt like I had sacrificed everything for an Olympic medal to not actually get the dream I had wanted my entire life [to have a child].”

With the help of a nutritionist and therapist and her husband, she conquered the demons through her 2019 pregnancy and childbirth.

“Having gone through a whole pregnancy and knowing that I felt confident through the whole thing, I feel like I’ve climbed Everest,” she said.

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