Back in 2000, Jim Davis was told by doctors that his knees were shot and that he probably shouldn’t run anymore. And he definitely should stop doing the annual Los Angeles Marathon.
That was 20 years ago. And the Sylmar resident is still entering the race, even if he walks more than runs the 26.2-mile event these days. But even at age 79, and after two knee replacements, Davis is still not interested in hanging up his race jersey.
So he was there again on Sunday, March 8, at the 35th LA Marathon 2020 presented by Asics as one of the 131 competitors who have taken part in every event since it began here in 1986. He walked the entire course, and finished it in 6:38.
“And walking it is no fun, believe me,” said Davis, via telephone on Monday, March 9.
But he still recorded his best time “in the past 10 years,” an impressive feat considering his age. “And I plan to do better next year,” he said.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t challenges.
“I was walking under 14-minute miles up until Mile 16. After that I started hitting a ceiling,” Davis said. “I felt something going south. I couldn’t keep the pace, and three times I almost lost my balance. I couldn’t stop. If I tried, my body still wanted to go, and I would fall unless I held something.”
“I’d grabbed something and spin around — I was pole-dancing,” he said.
But Davis kept going. He said he felt re-energized by Mile 20. But as he approached Mile 24, he started having balance issues again.
“Some people saw me stumble — I didn’t fall but I stumbled — and came over and asked if I was okay,” Davis said. “I told them what was going on and they said, ‘we’ll stay with you and keep you from falling.’ And they stayed with me to the finish. I didn’t fall.”
It helped, too, that the crowd — which was sparse in the beginning but grew in size along the race course — was quite supportive.
“We have badges on our backs that say ‘Legacy runner’ with our names — I was ‘Legacy Jim’ — and people kept coming by and offering congratulations and stuff like that,” Davis said. “And the people that helped me [the last couple of miles], they were moving people out the way saying, ‘we’ve got a legacy runner here.’”
When he crossed the finish line in Santa Monica, medical personnel hustled Davis into a tent to check him over. “I told them I just wanted to go to Wilshire and Third and get my ride home.”
So he could start getting ready for next year’s marathon — at age 80.