As Marvin Johnson excitedly recalled his track and field win in Toronto this month, he said it was a big deal for more reasons than one.
“I just picked this up last year,” explained the longtime Surrey resident, who trains with the Greyhounds Masters Track and Field Club for those aged over 35. “And this puts me at about the top five in the world in my age group.”
The August competition was actually two meets combined, he explained: The Canadian Masters Outdoor Championships and the NCCWMA (North America, Central America and Caribbean Championships).
Johnson won three medals in all, placing first in the 100-metre for M40 (men ages 40 to 44), second in the 400-metre and fourth overall in the 200-metre.
Not only did the longtime Surrey resident just pick up the sport a year ago, following a 23-year break after high school, but he also underwent leg surgery in 2011 after doctors discovered he had an artery entrapment.
“I had 57 staples in my leg,” Johnson explained. “If I didn’t have the surgery they would have had to amputate my leg…. It’s a birth defect. So I was walking and my whole foot was numb. I’d walk to the car and I’d have to stop, I was just in excruciating pain. It just gradually happened.”
After a CT scan and a trip to a vein specialist, all was revealed. Two weeks later, he underwent a five-hour surgery. If you had asked him then if he’d be competing – and dominating – in track and field competitions six years later, he probably would’ve thought you were crazy.
But here he is.
This year’s big win built on Johnson’s successes as a rookie last year.
At the BC Masters Indoor Championships in Kamloops in 2016, he won the 60-metre, 200-metre and 400-metre races, breaking BC M40 Indoor records in the 200 and 400 events. At the 2016 BC Masters Outdoor Championships, he was also victorious, in the 100-, 200- and 400-metre races.
Sprinting legend Harold Morioka, who was a coach with the Greyhounds Masters club, penned a letter recognizing Johnson’s achievements. Morioka, who is the only athlete to break world records for all distances from 60 metres to 800 metres, described Johnson as “more than an outstanding athlete.
“He is extremely dedicated to his fitness and training. He always has a positive attitude regardless of any difficult situation,” added Morioka.
Coach Sam Walker said Johnson’s energy is “infectious.”
“Training isn’t always easy and Marvin, he’ll be lying on the track after a sprint just exhausted, but he gets up and he goes for it again. That’s the effort that he puts in.
“It really is infectious, and everybody is trying to train at that level as well.”
Walker said Johnson would work a night shift until 3 a.m. and still come to practice and give it his all.
“He doesn’t complain he’s tired, he still puts in the same effort. He’s just incredible to be around.”
Walker said Johnson has “earned his stripes” and this latest competition is “a pretty big deal.”
“For the 40-year-old age group there’s a lot of competition,” added Walker.
“There are still some 40-year-olds that are competing in the Olympics, so with him and his times, he’s really at the top of his game.”