Runner, 80, Breaks National Record at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose

Lynne Hurrell poses with her daughter Gina after last weekend's Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon. Photo: MarathonFoto

Lynne Hurrell sets a new age group national record of 2:21:20.

It seemingly isn’t the ideal recipe for setting a national half marathon record. Fall down somewhere between miles 9 and 10. Bite your lip, bleed and wipe your face. Sit down for a couple minutes. Recover from the shock. Stand up. Resume running.

“I could feel my jaw was swollen,” says Lynne Hurrell. “It was puffy.”

Cause of accident?

“I didn’t pick up my feet high enough,” Hurrell admits. “I do it quite often.”

But Hurrell pushed forward and last Sunday finished the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon in 2 hours, 21 minutes, 20 seconds. Not bad for a woman who celebrated her 80th birthday in August. Good enough, in fact, to set a U.S. record, pending certification.

Hurrell wasn’t aware of the record until contacted by a reporter two days after the race.

“It feels pretty good,” she said, speaking of her achievement, not the swollen jaw.

Hurrell stands 4 feet, 11 3/4 inches. She lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California, specifically in Grass Valley. She weighs 118 pounds and fits the stereotype of the fit super senior.

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She’s active.

“I can’t sit still for more than five minutes.”

Her diet’s healthy.

“I don’t eat beef much,” she says. “Chicken and vegetables. I’ve never smoked. I don’t drink. I don’t drink coffee.”

She exercises her brain by solving newspaper puzzles and reading David Baldacci novels.

And she moves. Hurrell and her husband of 58 years, Keith, met when Keith, an Englishman, took ballroom dance classes in Los Angeles. Lynne was his instructor.

“We started dating, and I had to quit,” Lynne recalls. “We weren’t allowed to date students.”

So Keith literally swept his bride-to-be off her feet.

“More or less,” Lynne says.

Lynne ran last weekend’s half marathon with her 54-year-old daughter, Gina. Gina ran a half earlier in the summer, wanted to run another and Lynne decided it would be a nice way to celebrate becoming an octogenarian. Gina finished less than eight minutes before her mother, in 2:13:52.

Gina says her parents are her inspiration.

“From the time we were little kids, they were doing these super athletic things,” says Gina, who has two siblings.

When Gina was 6 or 7, the family climbed Mount Whitney. Mom and dad snow skied, hiked, picked up sabers and fenced, enrolled in survival classes and repelled.

“There’s never been an [attitude of] ‘Oh, I can’t do that,'” says Gina. “It was like, ‘This is going to build your stamina. You can do it.'”

Lynne confesses she has been blessed with good genetics. Her mother lived into her late 80s.

There are no secrets, though, to being healthy late in life, she insists.

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“You have to keep moving,” she says. “The best exercise is the exercise you like to do. I prefer to work out in the morning when it’s cool. You’ve gotta get lots of sleep. And you’ve gotta laugh once in a while. Be around people who are upbeat, who want to do things.”

Most of us are products of our environment and Hurrell is no exception. She lives on five hilly, tree-lined acres. “I walk up and down the hills with buckets of water and bird food,” she says. “It’s called Grass Valley, but we’ve got these 100-foot pine, cedar and oak trees. Keith [who is 87] breaks out the chainsaw and cuts down trees for firewood.”

“She’s definitely stronger than me,” Gina admits of her mother. “She’ll come to my house, start working in the backyard, cutting down big branches. The whole yard will be pruned and trimmed. It’d take me weeks. She does it in an afternoon.”

The half marathon was Hurrell’s first since 2008. She has run six marathons.

Like any long-distance runner, she was thrilled upon crossing the finish line in San Jose.

“I was relieved. I was happy. After falling, I just wanted to get it over with,” she said.

Her reaction to setting an age group U.S. record is equal parts wonder and suspicion.

“Since I hadn’t heard about it from anyone else,” she told a reporter, “I was thinking maybe you made it up.”

She considered just shutting up and biting her lip, but the last time Hurrell tried that it left her a bloody mess.

But as the saying goes, no pain, no gain.

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About The Author: 

Don Norcross is a San Diego-based sports writer, follow him on Twitter @Don_Norcross.

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