IRONMAN is inspiration fastest to slowest, youngest to oldest. Everyone who crosses the line has the story of the day written on their faces.
Completing the race is a coup regardless of who you are or how fast you went. v
This was her 21st IRONMAN World Championship. She initiated that journey back in 1989 and has finished on the podium every single one of those years! In 2012 she became the oldest women to cross the line before the stroke of midnight. Harriet Anderson was hoping to do that again and to add one more year onto the oldest finisher ever title she already owned.
Here’s a video of her coming in just under the wire in 2012 along with the finish line celebration:

The race in 2013 looked to be at least as good as the previous year until partway through the cycling leg. A crash on the bike put that quest in immediate jeopardy. But Harriet Anderson is not your everyday sort. She wasn’t about to let a little crash keep her from the task at hand. Bruised and scraped, she got up and continued.
In 2013 IRONMAN had predicted finish time tracking for the first time. I was following Harriet. I had a special interest in her. You see she had approached me earlier that year to get coached. Why would I say no to that great request!
The big goal was very clear: get to the finish line before midnight. I was following her predicted finish time. She had a history of cutting it close. The year before she only made it by 19-seconds!
This year she was flying. It looked like she was going to finish with around 25-minutes to spare. I was breathing easy. She was not. She was working it out on the marathon course.
Then things started to slow. Her predicted time slipped to only a 15-minute margin of error, then to 10-minutes and then it was a buffer of less than 5-minutes. Now I was breathing hard too. I kept asking for any live updates. The only news I could get was that she was still moving. That didn’t tell me a whole lot!
Midnight was closing in fast and she was still out on the Queen K Hwy. Then she was coming down Palani, which seemed to take an eternity for me, and likely longer for her. Finally, as I waited behind the finish line I was told she’d made left turn onto Kuakini. I had no idea how long it was going to take this tough 78-year to cover those final paces that would take her to Ali’i Drive and then onto the finish. It looked precariously close to being too much ground to cover in too little time. Tick tock.

Harriet Anderson closing in the finish, eventually with three minutes to spare!

Finally, FINALLY, Mike Reilly blurted it out. “Here she comes, Harriet Anderson.”
I still couldn’t see her, but there were still 5-minutes to go to midnight so I knew she’d do it! And that she did.
Harriett completed the course that day in 16:56:51, three minutes faster than she’d gone the year before. Yes, at 78-years of age crossing the finish line as the oldest woman in history certainly makes this one of the Top-40 Greatest Moments at IRONMAN.

History was made. 78-years and running strong.

At the Award Ceremony the next night I was chatting with her as she waited to be called up for her age group.
She commented,

“I felt pretty good until the run. But then my legs just seemed to get tired part way through the marathon.”

My response?

“Harriet, you’re 78. That can happen!”

Congratulations Harriet! To read more stats on Harriet, please click HERE.
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About the author Mark Allen More information on the author

I am the Founder and CEO at Mark Allen Coaching. I am proud to have been voted in an ESPN global poll "The Greatest Endurance Athlete Of All Time." During my multi-sport career I won the Ironman Triathlon World Championship six time, the inaugural Triathlon World Championship at the Olympic Distance in Avignon, France, and at one point in my career I won 21 straight races across every derivation and distance. It was a great career, but that's all it would ever be unless I was able to share all of the experience and methodology we invented long before smart watches, power meters, and flashy uniforms. That's why I started Mark Allen Coaching, as a way to return to others at least the part of the gifts I received.