When 86-year-old Queens resident Ginette Bedard crosses the finish line at the New York City Marathon, the euphoric feeling of completing the 26.2-mile race is “worth every minute.”
As one of the oldest runners in the marathon, Bedard has completed 16 of them and holds the U.S. marathon record for 75- to 79-year-old women, which she set in 2008, running 4:08:31 in 2008.
And she’s ready to do it again on Sunday.
Bedard, who was born in France and immigrated to Queens in 1972, runs around her Howard Beach neighborhood every day for two hours.
“I do it for my mind,” she said in her lyrical French accent. “I want to feel good and it keeps me busy. It’s good for you mentally and physically.
“I want to live longer and look good in my bikini,” she said with a hearty laugh.
Bedard only started running full time when she was 68 years old at the encouragement of a co-worker while she worked as an employee at John F. Kennedy Airport.
“It’s the best thing ever in my life that I’ve done for myself,” she said. “My best marathon was my very first one — people were cheering, they touch your hands.”
Over the years, Bedard said she’s watched the marathon get more and more organized with the increase of volunteers — there are about 10,000 of them, NYRR says.
Back when she began running in the early 2000s, men would “take a leak” off the side of the Verrazzano Bridge, she said. “You’d look down and see all the guys leaking,” she said laughing. (Note: It still happens today.)
“Every year gets better and better,” she added. “I give all the runners a lot of credit. They are well-trained, beautiful and very happy people.”
When asked how she feels about being one of the oldest runners, she said she has a “big advantage.”
“It feels great — I don’t have to try as hard anymore,” she cheekily admitted. “I will [run] as long as my body permits me.”
Bedard is captivated by the “euphoric feeling” she experiences when she reaches the end of the marathon.
“When I finish, ooh la la, I’m so happy I wave my hands and say ‘merci mon dieu’ [thank God],” she said. “Oh, what a feeling. It’s stressful but worth every minute.”
This story first appeared in amNewYork, one of our sister publications.