PHOTO: Betty Jean McHugh (center, with bandage on right shin) celebrates her world age-group record after the 2017 Honolulu Marathon (photo by Taylor Dutch for Race Results Weekly)
By Taylor Dutch, @taylordutch
(c) 2017 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
HONOLULU (11-Dec) -- When Canadian Betty Jean McHugh signed up for yesterday's 45th Honolulu Marathon, she assumed that she would have to walk the entire race after an injury sidelined her for the majority of the year. Instead, she shattered the Association of Road Racing Statisticians (ARRS) single-age world record for women 90 years or older.
McHugh, 90, also known as the "Flying Granny," added another honor to her long list of running accomplishments when she crossed the finish line in a net time of 6:47:31, which broke the previous record of 8:53:08 set by Mavis Lindgren in 1997 (her gun time is pending).
"I felt great because my son had come with my two grandchildren so we had a three-generation race and all my friends were here to celebrate this great event. I was nervous in the beginning because I had an accident and I hadn’t trained. I was going to walk the whole thing and then I decided to give it a go. So, it was a walk and run but I still managed to do a reasonable time,” McHugh told Race Results Weekly at her Waikiki hotel yesterday.
Sunday's performance shocked the Vancouver native who was recovering from a knee injury after she fell off of the stage while receiving a lifetime achievement award for her running accomplishments last year. Given the circumstances, her initial goal was simple.
"I wasn't even sure I'd finish. That was going to be my goal, is just finish. I don't care how long it takes. But because of this accident I'd had. I fell off the podium accepting a lifetime achievement award. I went to step off the podium and it was only two steps. I had a bad knee... but I tripped and tore the tendon that holds my quads and the only answer was surgery," McHugh said.
She continued: "Well, at my age, I said no way. My surgeon told me that, my physio told me that, but I said, 'ah, what do they know about me?' So, I go to a gym all the time and the rowing machine didn't hurt and I swear that's what got my quads back," she said.
For the fourth year in a row, McHugh ran the Honolulu Marathon with her family members. This year, her son Brent and her two grandchildren joined her in the race festivities, but she was also accompanied by a sizable entourage of 16 friends and family.
According to the ARRS, McHugh owns 14 world single-age records. All four of her marathon records (for ages 82, 85, 88, and now 90) were set on the Honolulu course. Her fastest age group record for the marathon was set in 2009 when she ran a blistering 4:53:06.
McHugh started running in the early 80's and doesn't remember how many marathons she's done in her lifetime, but she guesses "20 or 22" (the ARRS database lists 18).
"I don't keep track," McHugh joked.