Running forward, giving back

Mother and daughter Shiela and Gina Johnson from Los Angeles are ready to run for their Six Star medals in Tokyo and complete a joyous journey together that began with the Boston Marathon in 2009.
Gina, 49, started running high school cross country in 1986, and when Shiela, 71, joined the school’s cross-country team as a coach, her own running career took hold.
The mother and daughter duo ran their first marathon in Los Angeles in 2005. The rest is
history,” says Shiela.
They’ve run that race every year since and will do so again two weeks after their Tokyo
Why did they embark on their Majors journey together?
Shiela explains: “Gina is a pediatric medical director, so when we completed our third Comrades [Ultra] Marathon, I knew that the level of training required would not be feasible for her and decided we needed a new challenge. We had already run Boston (2009), Chicago (2018) and New York City (2013), so we were halfway there. Why not finish it!”

They collected their fourth star in Berlin, 2019 and then London post-pandemic in 2022.

Boston was completed in 2009

Gina shares some of their Major’s highlights: “Running through a unified Germany,
remembering the toppling of the wall in 1989 was a special moment, and then running past Westminster Abbey, only a few weeks after Queen Elizabeth had passed away, was emotional too.
“There is nothing like running past Wellesley College and up those Newton Hills on the Boston course. In Chicago, where our charity Team World Vision started, it was incredible running in a sea of Team World Vision’s orange jerseys. Knowing that we were helping bring clean water to 2,000 women and children was a real goosebump moment.”
Shiela and Gina live close to one another in the San Fernando Valley and can train together. Although they now run at different paces, they hold each other accountable and get out there, spending lots of time on the beautiful beach trails in Santa Monica. From November to March, they train with the Team World Vision runners who are getting ready for the LA Marathon with Gina and Shiela leading the group from the front.
Shiela shares their important connection to the charity: “When Gina read about the creation of the inaugural Team World Vision team at the Chicago marathon, she promised to run with them if they ever came to Los Angeles.  The following year, the LA marathon had their first Team World Vision team, and the opportunity to combine our passion for children with running coalesced into a lifelong calling. 
“We call it the triple transformation – we get healthier, we get to spend time together and with some of the best people on the planet – runners. All while our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world get fresh water and life. It is extremely fulfilling.”
Tokyo was three years in the making for the Johnsons after their entry was delayed due to COVID.
 “We have been calling Tokyo the race that never wa,” says Gina. ”But we are at the start line for real this time. After the disappointment of it being cancelled days before we were heading to Tokyo in 2020, it is such an exciting time for us as we prepare, and the race draws near.  It is a trip of a lifetime.”
They both provide inspiration for each other, and they also endeavor to inspire those they meet along the way.
Shiela says: “We always share the stories of life transformation that we see when we visit
countries such as Rwanda, Uganda, Haiti, and Albania.  We share the lives of those who've
become healthier, those who no longer need life-saving medications, those who’ve restored relationships while running together, and our story of being able to continue to run year after year.”
Shiela, mother of two and grandmother of three, also shares her secret to running marathons in her retirement years: “Exercising regularly, trying to eat well, and lots of prayer!!"
For more information about Team World Vision, click here.

*Even if athletes appear healthy after treatment or surgery, or to have a disorder under
control, underlying medical conditions could exist.  Always consult a physician and get a full health evaluation prior to marathon training.

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