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Surf City Half Marathon: At 90, she's celebrating the pure Joy of racing [The Orange County Register :: BC-SRS-HALF-MARATHON:OC]

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. - Dorothy Joy walked her first Surf City Half Marathon at age 75.

On Sunday, at 90, she walked her last.

Or so she says.

Surrounded by four generations of family and several longtime friends, Joy celebrated her recent birthday the way she has for a decade plus: by walking 13.1 miles on Super Bowl Sunday.

"I've done 63 5Ks," said Joy, a Yucaipa, Calif., resident. "One 10K, 53 halves and 10 relays. I've moved around a little bit."

Joy's active lifestyle inspires family members and strangers alike, said daughter Jenny Dean.

Dean, one of three daughters, and Mandey Marangakis, one of four grandchildren, walk with Joy for the quality time together race days afford. Marangakis - the antithesis of a morning person, she joked - has braved dawn the past few years and learned about her grandparents' relationship as a result.

Recently, Marangakis' teenage daughter, Ashley - one of 10 great-grandchildren - joined the mobile family gathering.

"We talk about all kinds of family history out there," said Joy, who'll continue to walk competitively but only shorter races.

For the past several years, Joy has written her age followed by "Come walk with me" on the back of her shirt.

She has stories from races past of younger men and women taking her up on the offer.

"I hope I'm doing this when I'm your age," she's often been told.

One year, Joy coached a woman walking her first half marathon up an incline. She later did the same for Cliff Veasey, a longtime friend and member of Joy's walking club, the Inland Empire Racewalkers.

"Pick 'em up and put 'em down, Cliff!" Veasey remembered Joy telling him.

"We all hope to be half as active at 90 as Dorothy," said Veasey, 56.

Distance races have taken Joy all over the country.

She's walked in Philadelphia; Nashville, Tenn.; Orlando, Fla.; and Arizona. She's done the Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon every year since its 2006 inception.

More than 100 medals - many she received for finishing first in her age group - hang on walls inside her home.

But it's the half marathon she couldn't finish that she and her family remember most.

Twelve years ago, Joy tripped and fell during a Surf City race, dislocating her shoulder. Three miles from the finish line, she picked herself up, dusted herself off and continued walking.

"I had her arm, and we were going to make it," Dean recalled. "But this one couple we'd been talking with before came back to find out what happened. They talked to a police officer on the street and they made her stop for the day."

Joy was joined by family at the hospital.

Once home, her husband told her no more half marathons.

"You see how much influence he has," Joy joked.

"For her, walking is self-gratification," Marangakis said. "She's proving to herself that she can still do it. But I know that she does like to inspire other people."

On Sunday morning, Joy and Dean were up before 5. Marangakis and her daughter like to imagine them blasting "Eye of the Tiger" while getting ready.

Family members in the race wore orange shirts that read "Team Joy, walk of ages." Joy wore a yellow visor with flowers and ladybugs.

"I'm 90," a patch on the back of her shirt read.

At 7:45 a.m., contestant No. 17847 stood among a gaggle of runners inching closer to the start line.

"Oh, my gosh, it's Dorothy Joy!" an emcee bellowed. "Ninety years young! Make some noise for Dorothy Joy!"

The crowd roared.

And with that, Joy was off.

"I'm 90, but I don't really feel like it," she said. "It hasn't sunk in. After my birthday went by, I said, 'Am I really 90?' Because I don't feel any different."

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(c)2017 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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