Despite recovering from knee surgery, nursing a cold and battling vertigo which led to two falls, Jim Davis completed the Los Angeles Marathon last year.
Along the 26.2 mile course, the Sylmar resident was assisted by a man and his girlfriend, who helped him cross the finish line.
Davis got there by walking for almost eight hours — but he finished.
And by doing so, he kept the legacy alive.
Davis, 76, is a Legacy Runner, a shrinking club of about 150 athletes who have participated in — and, most importantly, completed — all previous 31 Los Angeles Marathons.
“It’s a lot to keep it up. We get old, we get injured,” concedes Davis, a gentle-mannered and spry retiree.
But it’s a club that no one can get into anymore, and that’s what makes it special.
It’s also why Davis is gearing up for his athletic endeavor this Sunday, March 19, when he once again run will or walk from Dodger Stadium to the Santa Monica pier for yet another Marathon.
The only thing Davis doesn’t like about the route is that it’s from point to point instead of a loop, as it used to be when it started and finished in downtown Los Angeles.
“It makes it hard to get in and get back,” he explains, adding that a neighbor usually takes him and picks him up.
A Veteran Runner
The course is not the only thing that’s changed since Davis ran the inaugural race in 1986.
Finishing that first competition, he said, was surprisingly easy. He did it in just over four hours without training for it, deciding to take part because a friend had gotten him interested in running two years earlier, although he didn’t do it consistently.
Davis became addicted to running, which he did every day in the morning or late in the evening, in hot or cold weather. In his more active years, he’d ran in four marathons — even the challenging Boston Marathon, which Davis qualified for after completing the Portland Marathon in just over three hours.
Davis belonged to a couple of running clubs that did long distance running for marathon training and for fun, reaching either the sea or going around in a 31-mile loop through Santa Clarita, Placerita Canyon, and back to the Valley.
At several stretches in his life, he was running 70 miles a week. And reducing his time in Los Angeles Marathon was an objective throughout those years.
He remembers there being a lot of excitement in the city for the first marathon. Davis was one of the first 10,000 participants in the competition, which has since grown to more than 25,000 entrants. He’s been one of them all through the years.
The most noticeable change for him is instead of running the course, he mainly walks the course.
“I did better last year than I had in a couple of years, under eight hours,” Davis said. “I remember when I used to run it just barely over three hours.”
“I walked and jogged for the first 12 miles and then I just walked,” he said, describing his 2016 Los Angeles Marathon performance.
Despite his diminishing running prowess, Davis has never thought about quitting.
“I want to continue that streak. That’s a big motivation,” he said. “It’s something I can do, I want to do and I can continue doing.”
As a Legacy Runner, Davis has received certificates, commemorative shirts, shoes and attended parties. He also gets plenty of respect from fellow churchgoers and other race participants. His son also showed up at the race last year and they connected at mile 12.
Last year he didn’t train for the marathon because he was recovering from knee surgery. It still gives him some trouble, but he’s been able to walk a few more times lately.
But he also admits dealing with his cold and the vertigo last year was brutal.
“I stopped a couple of times. My body kept wanting to move. It was the weirdest sensation,” he said.
This year, the plan is simple.
“I want to cross the start and jog a little bit and walk, and see how it goes,” he says. “My plan is to finish. I will with God’s help, of course.”
For new runners, Davis recommends setting your mind to finishing the race.
“Go out with the mindset that you’re going to finish, then just take one step at a time until you finish. See yourself crossing the finish line,” he emphasizes.
During the race, he said, it also helps to reach certain personal milestones to stay motivated to keep going. For him it’s reaching Venice, just three miles from the finish line.
But most importantly, he notes, it’s to take the first step.
“You can’t finish if you don’t start,” he said.
And “finishing is all I want to do now.”