Runner Spotlight: Ella Willis

Published On: February 17th, 2021Categories: Latest News From Marathon HQ

This Black History Month, we just wanted to take a moment to celebrate Ella Willis. At 63- years-old, Willis has been running for 54 years and has been dubbed by some “Detroit’s Queen of the Marathon.”

Photo of Ella Willis at the 2019 Health and Fitness Expo, found on Lifetime Running Profile.

Ella Willis not only set a course record for the marathon in 1989, but went on to win it a total of four times. Willis held that course record too, until 2004. Ella still runs competitively and currently training to win at her own age-group division when in-person races commence!

When asked how she has been able to stay motivated she told us, “I love what I do and I am dedicated to running. It would be hard to stay motivated if I didn’t love it so much.”

We asked Ella what she has been up to since she completed her last Detroit Free Press event, the U.S.-Only Half-Marathon, in 2019 and she said not much has changed, “I’m still running 4 days a week, by myself.” She added that she has never been much of a social runner, so it, fortunately, hasn’t been too much of an adjustment for her.

Despite not being much of a social runner, Willis has not participated in any virtual events since the pandemic has started, “I am just training and waiting for the races to come back to Detroit. I can be patient, but I have faith that we will be back on the roads one day soon.”


Want to learn more about Ella Willis?

Check out her 2019 profile in Lifetime Running.

Detroit Marathoner Ella Willis making bid for Michigan Sports Hall of Fame

Ella has also been featured in our blog post about when the marathon was run on Belle Isle.