When the 33rd Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon goes off this Sunday morning, among the 24,000+ lining up outside Dodger Stadium for the 26.2 mile jaunt to Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica will144 running for the 33rd time – just as I will be broadcasting the race for the 33rd straight year (locally on KTLA-TV, from 6 – 11 a.m., and nationally on WGN America, 7 – 10 a.m. Pacific time).
This Friday at the pre-race press conference I will be joined on stage by one of those 144 LA Legacy Runners, Johnnie Jameson of Inglewood, California, Having just turned 70 , Johnnie still works at the Bicentennial Postal station at Beverly & Curson Streets in West Hollywood.
Last week I called Johnnie to discuss what we might talk about this Friday, and soon found out that we had a lot more in common than 32 previous marathons in Los Angeles.
“St. Louis, Missouri.”
“No kidding? I’m from St. Louis, too,” I replied. “What part?”
“Jesus. Really? The poster projects for failed urban renewal, right? The most infamous projects in the Midwest – along with Cabrini-Green in Chicago. I didn’t grow up three miles from there. The Shaw neighborhood in south city.”
Instantly, we jumped right back into our boyhoods in St. Louis, neighborhoods, horrible weather, the divided nature of the city along racial lines, and how we both had moved away and found running as a passion in our adopted cities.
Johnnie was born February 16, 1948, me January 2, same vintage. He attended Vashon and Beaumont High Schools, class of `66. I went to St. Louis U. High, same graduating year. He got drafted in 1968 and went to Viet Nam as an infantryman. I got drafted in 1969 and went home as a college student.
Both of us took wing from our hometown during the decade when St. Louis lost 28% of its population, me in `74 heading to Boston, him in `82 heading to L.A. We both found running, which saved his life, and gave me mine.
We could have talked for hours, and I hope we do just that this weekend. But Johnnie was at work when I called and had to ring off. Below is an excellent short documentary film called Mile19 that tells Johnnie’s story more completely, and speaks to the healing power that sports can play, and the lasting effects it can have on people’s lives.
Looking forward to a couple of old St. Louis boys getting together to talk over old times, Johnnie. See you soon.