John Butcher of Silver Lake was not thrilled with his time at Sunday’s L.A. Marathon – about 5 hours, 27 minutes. Still, the 64-year-old Butcher, an HIV and cancer survivor, has every reason to be proud. Sunday was his 29th consecutive L.A. Marathon. He is among the approximately 185 so-called “legacy runners” who have participated in every L.A. Marathon since the event began in 1986. Three years after his first marathon, Butcher was diagnosed with HIV. In 2010, Butcher was diagnosed and began treatment for cancer. Still, neither disease kept him from missing any one of the annual marathons.
Butcher was one of the legacy runners who was featured in a promotional campaign by ASICS, the shoe company and marathon sponsor. After submitting several photos of himself for possible use in the campaign, Butcher was surprised to see an enormous Sunset Boulevard super graphic featuring an image of himself wearing dark shorts and a white tank top as he ran in the first marathon. In an email he sent to friends and neighbors before Sunday’s race, Butcher, who has lived in Silver Lake for 30 years, shared his memory of his first marathon:
It truly is me 28 years ago, my very first marathon at age 36. It was taken somewhere past 17 miles because I started out with my running buddy, Jim Schoenemann who challenged me to do it, but at 17 miles I hit the proverbial WALL and crashed. I told Jim to go on, I’d catch up at the finish. I was running alone and struggling in this pic. I got to thinking that I might get some “mileage” out of being up on that bill board, but then realized no one is really going to recognize me! Seeing it for the first time was, well…., like an out of body experience wrapped in a 28 year time warp back to the 80’s … I gather that this brief and unexpected plucking of me from comfortable obscurity is what Warhol offhandedly referred to as everyone’s 15 minutes of fame. Whatever that means, I hope, while it lasts, that I present myself to the public as an honorable man who happens to be gay and HIV+.
When not running the marathon, Butcher usually runs in Silver Lake along Redesdale and West Silver Lake Drive.