POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 18, 2010
Already one of the Honolulu Marathon's most recognized and beloved competitors, 92-year-old Gladys "Glady" Burrill is a Guinness World Records confirmation away from achieving a notable first for herself and her favorite race.
Last weekend, Burrill completed her fifth Hono-lulu Marathon in seven attempts with an official time of 9 hours, 53 minutes and 16 seconds.
According to the Guinness World Records website, the oldest woman to complete a marathon is Jenny Wood-Allen, a native of Scotland who completed the 2002 London Marathon at age 90 years, 145 days.
Burrill turned 92 on Nov. 23.
Honolulu Marathon Association spokesman Pat Bigold said the association will forward its information to Guinness for the official nod. If confirmed, Burrill's accomplishment will be the first world record of any kind set at the Honolulu Marathon.
Bigold said the claim appears air tight. Burrill's age is verifiable, the race is the standard 26.2 miles and Sportstats, the Canadian timing service used by the Honolulu Marathon, has confirmed that the microchip attached to Burrill's shoe crossed each checkpoint along the route. Her official "chip time" is less than the clock time at the finish because she crossed the starting line well back in the pack.
In addition, Running USA, which keeps official records for road races, has also updated its information to identify Burrill as the oldest woman to complete a marathon.
For Burrill, the youngest of six children born to Finnish immigrants, just the thought of leaving a mark on the record books is humbling.
"It's just unbelievable," said Burrill, who divides her year between her home in Prospect, Ore., and her condominium in Waikiki. "Through all those years we spent as a poor immigrant family struggling on the farm, it's unbelievable to be here and to have set a record like this."
Burrill, also known as the "Gladyator," ran her first marathon in 2004 at the age of 86 and has returned to Honolulu each year since, earning an enthusiastic following among her fellow runners and those cheering along the sidelines.
However, Burrill was unable to finish the previous two marathons, leading some to wonder whether her racing days had come to an end.
In 2008, Burrill's husband, Gene, died just four days before the race. Honoring Gene's unflagging support of her bid to break her age-group speed record, Burrill chose to compete, running with a heavy heart before eventually stopping just a mile before the finish line.
Last year, Burrill completed 16 miles before stomach cramps forced her to quit.
Burrill again stopped short of the finish line this year, only this time just so she could take in the moment.
"It was the last 500 feet and all of a sudden I felt the emotion of what was happening and I sat down to absorb it," she said. "I had the thought that my life would probably change after this."
Kenyan runner Jimmy Muindi, a six-time Honolulu Marathon champion, saw Burrill near the finish line and went to her side to share a few words of encouragement. The two had become friends over the years and have a tradition of eating breakfast together the day after the race.
Refreshed, Burrill completed the final leg of the race, raising her arms in victory as she passed the finish line.
Burrill and Muindi had breakfast the next day as scheduled. The following day she race-walked four miles. A couple of days later, she walked another 10.
Burrill says she has no definite plans to be back next year. Then again, that's what she always says.
"Life is sort of like a marathon," she said. "We all have problems to overcome but if you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you can always keep going."