John Williams has so many race tee shirts that they are stored in their own armoire, which is stuffed to capacity.
“I had a chest I used to store them in,” said Williams, 81. “But I ran out of room. So now they are all in the armoire, except for some special legacy tee shirts, which are stored separately.”
“My mom has to keep giving him more storage space,” said Williams’ daughter, Rebecca Williams Rhodes, 59. “He keeps running out of room.”
Williams has shirts from the LA Marathon - which has run every year since 1986 - and the Tough Topanga 10K, which has been run in various forms since the 1970s.
“I love showing up for the LA Marathon in my 1987 race tee shirt,” said Williams. “Whenever I go to these long-standing races, I dig up the oldest shirt I have.”
Williams began running in 1982, after his wife discovered the sport.
“My mom was really big into running,” said Rebecca. “She was a top runner and would say, ‘We’re going to run a 10K.’ My dad would just complain. But, then, he got the bug too.”
John Williams met his wife after she came to New York City from Puerto Rico. The two lived in Greenwich Village and were part of the Beat Generation during the 1950s.
“My parents were the original Bohemians,” said Rebecca. “They wore berets. They have an original Ted Joans drawing that he made for them on a table in a coffee house.”
Eventually, the Williams moved to Culver City, just outside Los Angeles, which is best known for being the home of many motion picture and TV studios. After the move, John Williams left poetry and art behind and became a successful systems analyst.
He rolls his eyes at that, his Beat sensibilities still in tact. “I was a hired gun,” he says.
When asked about why he got hooked on running, he shrugs. “It was all the rage in the early ‘80’s,” he says. “Everyone was doing it.”
Yet, Williams loved it so much that he has kept all his race numbers and recorded all his races in his Jim Fixx Running Journal. Fixx, who wrote The Complete Book of Running, in 1977, is credited with helping start America’s fitness revolution in the late ‘70’s.
“My mom started us in running,” said Rebecca, “But my dad took over.”
Unfortunately for Williams, he ran so many marathons, that he lost count.
“I logged every race I ran, but after I thought I had run 100 marathons, I realized I miscounted and had to fix that. I told all my friends, ‘I’m running my 97th marathon for the second time.’ But seriously, after 30 to 40 years you lose track. All my records and race numbers are in a big wicker basket covered with spider webs.”
What isn’t in dispute is the fact that for Williams, running is a passion.
“He doesn’t stretch,” says Rebecca, who is an avid yoga practitioner. “He needs to stretch more.”
“I run four to six miles a day,” says Williams, who is a regular on the XTERRA SoCal Trail Run circuit and was an XTERRA Regional Champ in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
Williams is modest about his accomplishments. “My biggest ambition?” he asks. “It’s to not come in dead last.”
At the XTERRA Black Mountain 15K, Williams was far from last place. During registration and check in, he was at the head of the line, talking about the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship and how great it is to get up early and head out to the trails.
“Everyone hates running at first,” he says. “But then you realize how great it is. It’s still all the rage.”