Joy Johnson, whose motto was "I want to die running," collapsed moments after appearing on Today

By Wade Rouse
November 06, 2013 03:30 PM

Joy Johnson’s joy was running.

The 86-year-old, who spent some two hours every morning running the track and bleachers at a local high school in her hometown of San Jose, Calif., collapsed and died Monday, the day after completing her 25th New York City Marathon.

“She went out happy,” her daughter, Diana Boydston, tells the Wall Street Journal. “She couldn’t have asked for more than that, except maybe a few more years.”

The former PE teacher, who didn’t begin running until she was nearly 60, fell around mile 16 of the marathon and suffered abrasions to her face, but got up and finished in a time of 7:57:14. (Johnson’s best marathon time was 3:55:30 in 1999.)

Boydston said her mother got bandaged up in a medical tent but didn’t go to the hospital for further examination.

Part of Johnson’s longtime, post-NYC marathon routine had been to stand outside the Today show with her medal and greet weatherman Al Roker.

Roker interviewed Johnson, and after leaving Today, she told her sister she was tired, so they returned to their hotel to rest. Johnson never woke up, and was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital.