Margaret Hagerty ran herself into the Guinness World Records late in life, and was recognized as the oldest person to complete a marathon on every continent.
The Concord resident began running at age 64 in 1987 when she quit smoking. Her first marathon followed a couple years later and Guinness honors arrived in 2007.
Hagerty had laid out her clothes to prepare for a 5K race in Concord last month when she was felled by a stroke, her son, Alex Hagerty, said. She died Saturday at age 92 from complications of the stroke.
“She was just a spark plug of a lady...and had a radiance about her,” said Molly Barker of Charlotte.
Barker, the founder of the Girls on the Run character development and running program for girls, said Hagerty attended the group’s second ever 5K in 1997. “I wanted the little gals to see what was possible,” Barker said.
Alex Hagerty, of Reston, Va., said his mother simply enjoyed the competition and believed “it’s never too late to start being healthy and find new interests.”
Margaret Hagerty was a Union County native who worked as a hospital bookkeeper before retiring.
She liked how it felt to jog down the street when she began running, and simply started increasing her distance and speed, she told the Observer in 2009.
Hagerty spoke in her Concord home where her basement was crammed top to bottom with trophies and ribbons. At the time, she was recovering from getting hit by a mountain biker while running, and hoped to run a half-marathon on Mount Kilimanjaro a few months later — the last item on her bucket list.
She made it there. Hagerty also ran the original marathon route in Greece, raced in a 10K on the Great Wall of China and glided above the clouds during a Mount Everest marathon.
To get to Antarctica, she flew to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, then hopped a Russian ice cutter. During the 1999 race on a glacier, she fended off “the meanest birds on Earth,” predatory, dive-bombing skuas.
After she finished, Hagerty decided to run a marathon on every continent. Guinness noted that Hagerty was 81 years, 101 days old when she finished a marathon in Australia in 2004, the last of seven continents.
Last fall, Alex Hagerty was flipping through the New York Times when he saw his mom’s picture staring back at him on a feature story about older runners in the New York City Marathon. It was Hagerty’s final marathon, her 81st, at age 91.
In addition to her son, Hagerty is survived by her companion Richard Hamilton, two grandchildren, and several nephews and nieces. Hartsell Funeral Home in Concord is handling the arrangements.
A memorial service is set for 3 p.m. Sunday at Central United Methodist Church in Concord.
The family requested that in lieu of flowers donations go to Girls On the Run.
Barker wept when informed of the request. “I didn’t know that. But that’s not a surprise,” she said. “Margaret was so aware of little girls watching her....(She was) a spicy and selfless woman.”