Name: Jeannie Rice
Event(s): Road Race 5K
Jeannie Rice, 65, trains with a group of men nearly half her age. Most of the time, though, this Cleveland, Ohio real estate agent is not lagging behind—she’s leading the pack. “They call me the ‘machine,’” Jeannie says with a laugh. “When you’re running long distances, your mind has to take over at some point. You’ve got to be tough.”
“Running machine” is certainly an apt term for the grandmother, who has 89 marathons under her belt and bids to complete her 100th marathon by the end of next year. This July, Jeannie will compete in the National Senior Games 5K Road Race in Cleveland. Jeannie is determined to take home the gold at the event. “If somebody can beat me, that’s great. But I would like to win—that’s my ultimate goal. I’m naturally very competitive,” she says.
Jeannie wasn’t introduced to the sport of running until she turned 35. Growing up in Seoul, Korea, a culture that discouraged girls from participating in athletics, Jeannie had never so much as kicked a ball when she relocated to the United States at age 19.
Jeannie started jogging in the early 80s to lose a few extra pounds. In 1984, a mere year after she started running, she competed in her first marathon in Cleveland, crossing the finish line in 3 hours and 45 minutes—a respectable time by any runner’s standards. “I didn’t realize at the time that I had a talent. But it was a natural gift, because I’ve been running ever since then,” Jeannie says.
This year alone, Jeannie has already knocked out four marathons, including the 2013 Boston Marathon in April, in which three runners died and countless more were injured from a bombing attack. Jeannie was one of the lucky ones who crossed the finish line before the bombs went off, clocking in at 3 hours and 38 minutes, which put her first in her age division. She was yards away from the site of the bombings. “We heard a loud explosion, and then someone screamed ‘Run!’ and we all just started running. We were terrified. We didn’t know what was going on,” Jeannie recalls.
The experience was jarring, but Jeannie won’t let it deter her from her running goals. “You’ve just got to keep going,” Jeannie says, who is keeping her sights set on Cleveland. Jeannie knows that her biggest fans—her grandchildren—will be on the sidelines, cheering her on every step of the way. “They always come with a big sign,” Jeannie says.
After the Games, Jeannie hopes to compete in more marathons across the world. One thing is for certain, though: this running machine won’t be slowing down anytime soon. “I’m not ready to quit just yet,” Jeannie says. “I’ll just keep going and going as long as my body allows.”