San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Herediana runs 100 marathons

From the print edition

At 54, Heredia native Jeannette Roostai ran her first marathon. She liked it so much that she decided she would run some more, and now at 69, she has completed 100 marathons. “It’s like an addiction, or maybe a passion,” she said. “Marathoning holds me both physically and mentally.”

She’s run across the desert in Africa, the ice in Antarctica and the stones of the Great Wall of China. As a marathoner, she has logged thousands of miles across all seven continents. Although Roostai was born in Heredia, she moved to the U.S. in the 1970s. 

The Tico Times caught up with her on a recent friends-and-family visit to Costa Rica, and she was happy to discuss her 100 marathons.

Roostai tends to narrate her stories as if 26.2-mile races are no big deal. As if it was just something she started, and as if it’s completely nature that she would eventually finish 100 races totaling 2,620 race miles, not to mention thousands more miles in training. But she does admit it was slightly crazy.

It all started when one of her daughters wanted to run a marathon. Roostai was 54 years old and a stay-at-home mom. “I had never run before,” she said. “I went to a catholic school and was taught by nuns. There I learned to sew and draw for fun, and never run.”

But Roostai began to run anyway. She trained with her daughter and they completed their first race in 1996. Then they did a few more marathons together but eventually her daughter quit racing. For the next 15 years, Roostai never stopped. Her mornings began before the sun was up so she could log at least 20 miles a week, plus long runs on the weekends. She stopped eating meat because it made her feel “cleaner” when running. Veggie burgers and hot chocolate are her favorite pre-race food.

The world opened to her by travelling to races. She ran marathons in all 50 states, Spain, Brazil, Kenya, China, Sydney and Antarctica. Roostai has only one complaint about how marathon racing has changed over the years. “Now all the registration is online,” she said. “I just can’t figure computers out.”

Her words of wisdom to other runners? “Drink water, dehydration is terrible,” she said. “And keep enthusiastic however you can. I love the training, the start and the applause at the finish line, but it’s not for everyone.”

What will she do now? 

“Now I will rest,” she said. “I just want to keep up with my grandchildren.”

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