Jeannie Rice, the Korean-born American runner, set not one but three new world records in her latest race
Lead photo by Rob Jerome/USATF
It’s stories like those of Korean-American runner Jeannie Rice that prove the oft-repeated saying of age being nothing but a number. At the recently concluded 2023 USATF Masters Championships, she shattered not one but three age group world records at the age of 75.
She ran 22:41.46 in the 5K race, around 12 seconds faster than the previous record. Then came the 10K where she clocked in at 46:53.07, a little over three minutes faster than the record. Finally, she blazed through the 1.5K in only 6:14.88, shaving six seconds to set the new bar. What’s even more amazing about this is that she did it in hellish weather conditions in North Carolina, in the middle of the world’s hottest summer to date.
While she’s far from being the only senior runner in the world, the feats are certainly impressive, proving that the body can still push past its limits even in a phase where one might be deemed weaker.
“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,” Jeannie Rice said in a 2021 interview
“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,” Rice said in a 2021 interview. “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.”
Of course, it helps that she’s been doing this for more than a while now. The athletically gifted semi-retired real estate agent has been running for 30 years, taking it up following a trip where she gained a little weight. Fast forward to now: a competitive spirit she didn’t know she had took her from running as an exercise to becoming a record-setting runner.
- Her first major performance was the 2018 Chicago Marathon, where she set the new record in the 70-79 age group with a time of 3:27:50, over seven minutes faster than the previous best.
- After that came her first world record-breaking performance, where she set the new record for fastest half-marathon in 70-79 at the 2019 Akron Half Marathon with a time of 1:37:07. This was the culmination of four attempts to break the record in different events, where the worst miss was by only a minute and what would have been a successful attempt was invalidated by a technicality.
- She wasn’t done that year, either. After the half-marathon record, she went to the 2019 Berlin Marathon and broke her own age group world record with a faster time of 3:24:48, three minutes and two seconds faster than the previous year.
- Then in her last win before this latest one, April earlier this year, three days after her 75th birthday, she set a new world record in the 75+ age group at the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:33:15, winning the entire division by 20 minutes and beating Norway’s Vera Nystad, who set the record Rice just smashed.
The most important lesson we can all learn from Rice? As long as we’ve got both the physical and mental will, it’s never too late to start anything and do what needs to be done.
“Running is a huge part of my life, and it’s the main part of my daily routine. I go to bed early around 9 p.m., wake up early every morning around 5 a.m., have a cup of coffee, and get out the door six days a week to run,” Jeannie Rice shared
“Running is a huge part of my life, and it’s the main part of my daily routine. I go to bed early around 9 p.m., wake up early every morning around 5 a.m., have a cup of coffee, and get out the door six days a week to run,” she shared.
Like her, there have been many athletes who’ve started at an age that may not be considered the physical prime—while sometimes, that may be true, there have been many more who have succeeded regardless. Just start; who knows where the road will take you if you just enjoy the journey.