Enduro Photo courtesy of the Akron Marathon
- Seventy-one-year-old Jeannie Rice ran 1:37:07 at the Akron Half Marathon on August 10, which set the age group world record. The record is still pending ratification.
- Rice already holds the age group world record for the marathon, which she set with a time of 3:27:50 in Chicago last October.
- Next on her list is bettering her own record-holding marks in the marathon and the half, starting with the Berlin Marathon.
After multiple attempts to break the age group world record in the half marathon, Jeannie Rice finally ran down her goal. The 71-year-old phenom from Mentor, Ohio finished the Akron Half Marathon in a time of 1:37:07 on Saturday morning in Akron, Ohio.
Pending ratification, the performance broke the previous 70-plus women’s world record of 1:37:38 set by Lavinia Petrie of Australia in 2014.
Rice knew the record was within her reach when she noticed a blazing fast mile split of 7:01 on her watch between miles 11-12. She ended up averaging 7:25-mile pace for 13.1 miles, which secured the record by more than 30 seconds.
“I felt good and I just did it. It was great! I feel so excited,” Rice told Runner’s World.
For Rice, crossing the finish line in a world record time was the culmination of months of hard training and pushing past several close calls. While maintaining mileage of 50 to 60 miles per week, she attempted the record in January at the Naples Half Marathon in Naples, Florida–her residence for half the year–where the humidity affected her and she finished in 1:38:42. She missed the world record by over a minute but broke the American record in the process.
In February, she competed at the Fort Myers Half Marathon where she crossed the line in 1:36:16, but unfortunately the course was not record eligible. Just a few weeks after she finished second in her age group at the Boston Marathon, Rice made her third attempt at 13.1 with a time of 1:39:41 on a hilly course at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.
The day before she attempted the record in Akron, she drove the course and became a little nervous that the hills on the route would slow her down.
“I wasn’t confident that I’d do it, but I thought ‘I’ll just do my best.’ That’s all I can do,” Rice said.
Her best was more than enough as Rice’s fourth attempt in Akron was her most successful. After many days of staring at the previous world record time written on a note taped to her fridge, Rice can finally say that she’s the one to beat it over 13.1.
“I had the half marathon world record time so I could look at it every day so I could go for that, which is my goal, and now that I did that, I can put down my own record time and now I’ll go after that,” Rice said.
Rice, who has two teenage granddaughters, now owns age group world records in the half marathon and marathon distances. In October 2018, she smashed the 70-plus women’s world record in the marathon when she finished the Chicago Marathon in 3:27:50, almost eight minutes faster than the previous record.
The realtor, who started running at the age of 35 with the initial goal of losing weight, credits her success to never being injured and her recent fast times to a change in her long runs which have increased speed to an average mile pace of 8:10-15.
“I think that’s the only reason why and how I can run all these years in decent time,” Rice said of being healthy with the exception of one knee injury as a result of falling off of her bicycle years ago. “I’m very lucky and I’m very blessed.”
Watch: Rice set the age group marathon world record at the 2018 Chicago Marathon.
With two world records in the books, Rice is focusing her efforts on lowering her own marks. Her first attempt at the 26.2 record will come at the Berlin Marathon on September 29. She also plans to run a marathon in Thailand as well as the 2020 Tokyo and Boston Marathons.
“I’m going to Berlin for the marathon. If I can break my own world record, it’d be great even by a minute or a half minute. So I set a goal like that, so I don’t give up, so I can continue to train hard and tough,” Rice said.