Jeannie Rice has been after the half marathon age group world record since she turned 70. But weather, logistics, and other challenges have always thwarted her efforts—until Saturday, when she finally set the new mark at a half marathon in Akron, Ohio.
Rice, 71, who lives in Mentor, Ohio, finished in 1:37:01 (her “gun time” was 1:37:07), eclipsing the previous record of 1:37:38, set by Lavinia Petrie of Australia in 2014. Rice average pace was 7:24 per mile—a clip that many recreational runners of all ages would probably envy. It placed her second in the masters category, behind Teresa Ferguson, a 51-year-old who ran 1:27:53.
In her age group, Rice also holds the world record in the full marathon, finishing the 2018 Chicago Marathon in 3:27:50. She also has the American records in the one-mile (6:37), half marathon, 26.2-mile distances.
During a hot and humid half-marathon record attempt in January, in Naples, Florida, she missed the half mark by one minute. In a subsequent try in Fort Myers, she ran a 1:36, but the course had not been sanctioned by U.S.A. Track & Field, which is a requirement for certifying any record. Then, Rice tried again in May at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, but came up short again, clocking 1:39:41.
The fourth try on Saturday was the charm. But don’t expect Rice to revel in that accomplishment for too long. She told Women’s Running in May that she still has plans to win her age group at each of the six World Marathon Major races. She’s already done so at the Boston, New York City, and Chicago marathons, leaving Berlin, Tokyo, and London still on the list.
For Rice, running was first a means at age 35 to shedding a some weight and improving her health, but it didn’t take her long to discover her talent.
“In 1983 during my first race, a local five miler, I came in fourth place. The girl who came in third was a ‘real runner,’” Rice said. “That’s when I got the bug. I was right behind her and I thought, ‘what if I really trained?’”