SI Vault
Craig Lambert
November 23, 1987
At the Falmouth Road Race on Cape Cod, friends and well-wishing strangers offer handshakes, smiles and greetings before the race starts. Along the 7.1-mile course, many of the 5,400 entrants do the same. Boston Mayor Ray Flynn waves hello as he speeds past, as does Fred Lebow, director of the New York City Marathon. Every few yards, it seems, another spectator yells, "Way to go, Ruth!" from the sidelines. Then, in the final stretch, cheers erupt as the P.A. system booms out: "Now approaching the finish, wearing number F86, is Ruth Rothfarb of Cambridge, Massachusetts." The "F" means female and the "86" is Rothfarb's age.
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November 23, 1987

A Granny Whose Get-up Hasn't Gone

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In light of research showing that women 55 and older watch more television than any other group, and that two thirds of all 80-year-old women cannot cross a street before a green light changes, Rothfarb's achievements are all the more distinctive. John A. Kelley, 80, the living legend who has completed 53 Boston Marathons, says, "She shows that I'll be able to keep on running when I get old." Running guru Dr. George Sheehan, an active competitor himself at 68, notes that "older runners develop more wisdom of the body. They go with their bodies' messages, not their brains'. Ruth is probably superbly tuned in to her body."

For her part, Rothfarb says, "I think I was old at 65, but now I'm young." Running itself matters more to her than records. After the Falmouth race, when asked for her time, Ruth smiled and shrugged, "Who knows?" Nonetheless, at last November's Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., she ran a 5:40:51, U.S. age-group (85 to 89) pending record. Of course, that's about 12 minutes behind her 1982 mark of 5:28:37. But, says Ruth, "you slow up a little bit as you get older."

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