As is the case in almost every event she walks, 90-year-old Dorothy Joy was her age group’s sole finisher at the 2017 Surf City Half Marathon on February 5. She could have moseyed along at a pedestrian pace and still taken the top award in the 80-and-over division, but the thought never entered her head.
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Instead, the nonagenarian maintained a pace of 17:21 per mile to cross the line of the Huntington Beach, California, event in 3:47:24. It was her best half marathon time since October 2014, and faster than 322 competitors who trailed her to the finish at Surf City.
Joy didn’t exercise regularly until 1995. That year she and her husband, Jim Joy, moved to Yucaipa, California, a city on the western edge of San Bernardino National Forest, 80 miles east of Los Angeles. When Jim was advised by his new doctor to begin walking 45 minutes a day for health, Joy joined him. (The two have now been married for 69 years.)
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In 2001, Jenny Dean, the youngest of the Joys’ three daughters, got her parents walking with greater purpose. Dean had run track in high school in the 1970s and eventually took up racewalking competitively in 1999. In March 2001 Dean convinced her parents to walk in a 5K fundraiser.
“Jenny and her father walked together that day,” Joy said of her first organized walk. “I was kind of dragging behind going uphill, but coming down, boy, could I pass them up.” While waiting for friends to finish, Joy and Dean went over to look at the results and spotted a blue dot next to Joy’s name. “Jenny said, ‘Oh my gosh, Mom, you came in first,” Joy said. “That was like waving a red flag in front of a bull, and hey, there was no stopping me after that.”Dorothy Joy displays her finisher’s medal after the Surf City Half Marathon. MarathonFoto
In January 2002, a day shy of her 75th birthday, Joy joined her daughter to walk the Pacific Shoreline (now Surf City) Half. “That’s the date I usually give as when my official walking started, so to speak,” Joy said. “When I finished, a young man came up and congratulated me and said, ‘Can I give you a kiss?’ ‘Well, shoot,’ I said. ‘At age 75 I’ll take whatever I can get.’”
In addition to the occasional kiss, Joy garnered more than 100 medals during the subsequent 15 years, most for winning her age group. To date she has completed 63 5Ks and 53 half marathons as well as 10 relay events.
Dean has been her mother’s most consistent walking companion. In 2008, they did all six Rock ’n’ Roll races that were held that year. Over the years Joy and Dean have walked events in 12 states plus British Columbia. Both women are members of the Inland Empire Racewalkers, a club based 25 miles west of Yucaipa in Riverside. Mother and daughter enjoy Saturday morning club walks of three to seven miles, and get together for walks a couple other times most weeks.
Others in the family walk as well and in the past three years, four generations of the family have done Surf City, according to Dean.
Beyond the enjoyment and benefits walking has brought to her, Joy says she appreciates being something of a role model for others.
“The past several years,” she said, “I’ve had all kinds of comments from people who come up to me, saying things like, ‘You’re an inspiration. I hope I’m doing this when I’m your age.’ And you know, if I can convince somebody to keep on going, that makes me feel that I’ve really accomplished something to the good. That’s really what I’ve been walking for the last few years—to help encourage people.”