Michelle Reed


Thu, 2 Jul, 2015

71-year-old woman completes 161 kilometre marathon with 6 seconds to spare

71-year-old woman completes 161 kilometre marathon with 6 seconds to spare

The Western States 100 Mile Race (that’s over 160km) has taken place for over forty years. In that time, the testament of human fitness has never been completed by any woman over the age of 70. This year, however, 71-year old grandmother Gunhild Swanson has changed that.

With just 6 seconds to spare, Swanson finished the race, which sprawls across the expansive central Californian landscape. Competitors are given 30 hours to finish the extensive marathon, and Swanson managed to finish at an impressive 29 hours, 59 minutes, and 54 seconds, needing nearly every last second to conquer the course. “The terrain is so difficult that ordinary mortals like me, you can’t run. You have to powerwalk it and hike it,” Swanson told iRunFar.com.

Even more impressive, Swanson managed to veer off course at one point during the race, successfully adding extra miles to her journey. 

“At about mile 88, my pacer and I made a terrible rookie mistake and came up the trail. To the left, there were a couple runners and [we] followed them rather than looking for the markers. We should have turned right. We got all the way up a steep hill over a mile and a half or so and had to come back down. So, I got three bonus miles.”

Ultimately, Swanson’s perseverance paid off, earning her the sought-after bronze belt buckle that is awarded to completers of the race, setting a new record, and making us all feel just a tad lazy in comparison.

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