Lorraine Cephus, all of 87 years young, was being escorted from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon Finish Line to the VIP tent. A metal barrier was shoved aside. A woman pointed out cables, telling Cephus to watch her step.
A cyclone fence was moved aside. This was the royalty treatment.
“Is this Lorraine?” said a woman in catering.
“Hi, lady!” said another fan.
“My girl!” piped in a spectator.
In the City of Brotherly Love, no one was more beloved Sunday than Cephus. On the 40th running of the American Association for Cancer Research Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, Cephus ran the race for the 40th time.
It took her 4 hours, 2 minutes and 1 second to reach the finish line, nearly four times as long as men’s winner Galen Rupp, but she made it. And with nearly as much fanfare as Rupp, the two-time Olympic medalist.
“It feels wonderful that I made it,” said Cephus, who lives in nearby Cherry Hill, N.J.
Cephus is one of 23 legacy runners who have finished all 40 Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathons, formerly the Philadelphia Distance Run. She has also run all 38 Broad Street Runs, a 10-miler.
“She’s obstinate,” said Rory McManus, one of the 23 legacy runners. “It means she’s out to embarrass all the lazy people in the world. And I think she’s doing a pretty good job of it.”
Cephus took up running, she said, “to be outside.”
“And to have time to myself,” she added. “To have my own thinking time.”
Asked what her reaction would have been if back in 1978, at the first Philadelphia Distance Run, that she would run the race for 40 years, Cephus smiled and said, “I’d have told them they lied.”
Awaiting Cephus at the finish line was her daughter, Sheila Friday.
“She’s better than me,” said Friday, one of Cephus’ two children. She also has three grandchildren. “She’s got more stamina, more guts than a lot of people out here. I will not follow in her footsteps, I’ll tell you that.”
Another Lorraine, Lorraine Daversa, is a friend of Cephus’ and flew all the way from Golden, Colo., to run with the octogenarian.
“I think she’s an amazing woman,” said Daversa. “And an amazing example for each of us. She helps us understand it’s truly important to live your best life. And that way, you show your appreciation for life.”
Cephus was married for nearly 45 years. Her husband died almost 20 years ago. Two of her secrets for a healthy lifestyle are common: exercise and eat healthy.
“Not too much chocolate,” she said.
Sitting in the VIP area, waiting for a massage, Cephus offered one more pearl of wisdom for her long, fascinating life.
Said the Rock ‘n’ Roll queen for a day, “I love everyone.”