“I’m 93 and still running marathons – here’s how I’ve done it”

Mathea Allansmith – AKA the world’s oldest female marathon runner – shares the secrets behind her long running career.

When Mathea Allansmith crossed the finishing line at the 2022 Honolulu Marathon she knew all her hard work had paid off – she was going to be a Guinness World Record holder.

“Crossing the finish line was the thrill of my life,” she says. “There were several groups of people filming and cheering me on, even though it was many hours after the start of the race.” 

Allansmith completed the 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometre) challenge in 11 hours, 19 minutes and 49 seconds, when she was 92 years and 194 days young. After a thorough check by Guinness World Records, she’s officially been declared as the world’s oldest female marathon runner.  

Now 93, Allansmith of Koloa, Hawaii, US, isn’t going to put her feet up and admire her certificate, she’s going to continue to do what she loves – running. And she’s shared her secrets so you can keep running for years to come, too.  

Mathea Allesmith at the finish line of Honolulu Marathon.Credit: Mathea Allansmith

Don’t be afraid to make changes as you age

Allansmith took up running in her forties after a colleague suggested she try running two miles a day. “I was already taking walks, and I really liked exercise and being outdoors. So, I took up running as proposed and fell in love with the feeling.”  

She says that although it’s not as easy as it used to be, she’s determined to keep moving.

“I’ve made many changes to my training as I age in order to remain active,” she says. “It’s not as easy, so I must pay more attention to tracking my data. Recording my daily and weekly miles and pace lets me know that I’ve done the work necessary to run any races I have coming up.  

“I get out every day, but I may not make my daily mileage goal. That said, I always make my weekly mileage goal. With age, I’m much more sensitive to the heat so I wake up before sunrise to start training.” 

She also has to factor in another effect age can have on our bodies: “For the past decade or so, I’ve had to pay much more attention to where the bathrooms are along my longer routes.” 

On days when she is running 10 miles or more, Allansmith takes more rest stops than she used to, but she adds: “I still manage to get the work done. I’m more than willing to make changes and manage the ageing issues that come up, in order to keep going.” 

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Incorporate strength training

To reduce injury and help with recovery, Allansmith combines running with other activities. I do 25 minutes of a combination of strength training and physical therapy every day. If I don’t do this, my body isn’t ready for training. I also do leg lifts, hip flexors and rotations [exercises that strengthen and mobilise the hip area], balance exercises, back stretches, child’s pose from yoga for my knees, and glute and core exercises. 

Run the same route

When she can, Allansmith enjoys running the same route every day. “That way, I know the mileage points and where the bathrooms are. Also, I usually pass the same people every time and we smile, wave and hug as we pass each other. I even get friendly smiles from the postal workers, the UPS driver and sometimes the mayor as he comes out of the water with his surfboard.” 

Be consistent

Even if she’s got out of bed the wrong side or the weather is rubbish, Allansmith puts on her running kit. “I run six days a week, no matter the weather, whatever mood I’m in, or whether I’m on vacation or at home,” she says. “The pace and number of miles per training day sometimes shift around, but no matter what, I’ve got my running shoes on and I’m out the door. These days, on average, I run 36 miles a week.” 

If she’s training for a marathon, Allansmith increases her mileage 18 weeks before the event. “I stick closely by the training method as written in the Competitive Runner’s Handbook.”  

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Eat nutritious foods

Allansmith is keen to keep her body fuelled with the right nutrients, so she swerves ultra-processed foods. 

“I don’t eat crap. I count calories and food groupsprotein, carbohydrates, and fats – religiously. And I make sure my weight is stable.” 

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Wear kit that you know and love

Running gear essentials are a big deal for Allansmith. “I never wear anything new on race day. I only use things I have already tried – including shoes. I’m very careful to break in my running shoes for the first 200 miles or so by using them in non-training circumstances,” she says.

“Every shoe – even if it’s the same make and model – is different, and I have to find out if that shoe will be comfortable for the long training and race miles. I trust New Balance as a brand and I’ve worn their kit for 30 years. My current running shoe model is: 990v5.” 

As for her outfit, “I wear bright colours. It’s my signature look.” 

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Find what you enjoy

The Honolulu Marathon is Allansmith’s favourite event. “They have a no time limit policy, so that allows even the slowest runners to finish the race. I think it’s worth sticking around until the last runner comes in because those are the incredible stories.” 

Allansmith credits it as being one of the best executed races that she’s been a part of. “Fantastic registration, setup and management. It makes it a joy to participate in. And, of course, Honolulu is a beautiful setting.” 

These are just some of the reasons that older runners flock to the event. Indeed, Honolulu Marathon organisers confirmed to Saga Exceptional that more than 1,500 participants in the 2022 race were over the age of 70.

Be humble

“I don’t consider myself an oddity. I don’t have super genes. I’m just a regular person,” Allansmith says. “When I found out that I’d clinched the Guinness World Records title, I was overjoyed and a bit in shock because it dawned on me that I’d actually done it. No more just wondering about it. 

“I’ve grown up with Guinness World Record books and museums, and have always admired people who distinguish themselves in this way. I am honoured to be among them and I thank Guinness for elevating and promoting the record holders.” 

Age is no excuse – even if you’re a beginner runner

“I don’t use age as an excuse to skip training or as a reason why I can’t do something,” says Allansmith. “My advice to new runners is to begin with a manageable goal and then start working. Just start moving. Your body will respond and adjust and then want more.” 

Our how to start running guide explains all you need to know as a beginner. You never know, if you start today you could become a Guinness World Record holder, too.  

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Rebecca Frew

Written by Rebecca Frew she/her

Updated:

Becky Frew has written various articles for newspapers and magazines focusing on fitness, is a qualified run leader, and a certified sleep talker trainer who loves to help advise people how they can nod off easier. When she is not writing or reading about fitness, she is at hot pod yoga, bounce class, training for an ultra-marathon or booking anything with a medal and free food at the end.

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