Nov 17, 2023 - News

Grandmother eyes Philadelphia for 100th lifetime marathon

Judy Graham-Garcia, left, with her friend Jocelyn Cascio, at the Ocean State Marathon in Rhode Island in October 2020.

Judy Graham-Garcia, left, with her friend Jocelyn Cascio, at the Ocean State Rhode Races Marathon. Photo: Courtesy of Jocelyn Cascio

For Judy Graham-Garcia, life is a marathon — and then some.

Driving the news: When she crosses the Philadelphia Marathon finish line on Sunday, Graham-Garcia will have completed her 100th marathon and seventh of 2023 (her single-year record is eight).

  • It's a remarkable feat considering the 63-year-old registered nurse and grandmother has run at a breakneck pace since competing in her first race — the Walt Disney World Marathon — way back in 2004.
  • Several of Graham-Garcia's friends are traveling from the Boston area or doing something special to honor the milestone.

What they're saying: One of those friends, Jocelyn Cascio, tells Axios she arranged for the race announcer to acknowledge the accomplishment when Graham-Garcia finishes the race.

  • "Judy has either figured out how to clone herself or has some magic formula," says Cascio, an endurance junkie who met Judy through the sport. "What Judy does better than anyone else I know is to not take a single day, a single moment or a single mile for granted."

The intrigue: Graham-Garcia has participated in many Ironman events and run the New York City and Boston marathons each a handful of times, including 2013, the year of the bombing in Boston, and the triumphant return in 2014. She remembers the yellow daffodils planted along the race route and still has the running skirt she wore that day.

  • Graham-Garcia and her partner once lived out of a van for three weeks so she could hit marathons in South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming, three of the last four legs of her feat of finishing a marathon in each of the 50 states.

Yes, but: She has never run the Philadelphia Marathon. `

  • She wanted to do the 26.2-mile race as part of her 50-state tour but instead ran one in Scranton.
  • Graham-Garcia's last Philly visit was in 2002 when she was a graduate nursing student with barely enough money to pay for the hotel where her anesthesiology board review course was being administered.

The latest: The allure of returning here was too much for Graham-Garcia. She was originally supposed to run the London Marathon next year to mark her 100th milestone, but plans changed over dinner with friends following a race in Martha's Vineyard.

  • "It was meant to be," Graham-Garcia says.

Flashback: Graham-Garcia is a breast cancer survivor and still ran the New York City Marathon while undergoing radiation. Plus, she had to have surgery in 2021 after blowing out a knee.

  • She was on crutches for weeks and endured months of painful physical therapy to get back to where she is today.
  • "It does take a little bit of Type-A, OC disorder to be this way," Graham-Garcia says.

The bottom line: During her Philly stay, Graham-Garcia plans to run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, visit the Liberty Bell, and, of course, have a cheesesteak or two — but only after the race.

  • "Do it while you can," Graham-Garcia says. "The key to a good, healthy future: You gotta keep moving."

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