Slender and athletic, Johnson vowed two decades ago to train for and run a marathon and to earn a black belt in one of the martial arts. He also wanted to write a novel, become reasonably proficient in playing an acoustic guitar, and earn his Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Johnson said he had always liked running but had never really raced until his friend Barbara Payne Shaw talked him into running a half marathon. He said he signed up for the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll in May 2005, trained throughout the summer, and raced on Labor Day.
Acting on the motto that “competence in training builds confidence in performance,” Johnson trained by running regularly and completing progressively longer runs in “downtown Bavon” with his second son, Jacob, now a college student, riding a bicycle alongside.
“If you accomplish a half marathon, of course you have to run a marathon,” he said, so he decided to take on the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington. He raced in October 2005. His time was 4:38:39.
“I just loved it,” said Johnson.
With the marathon completed, he buckled down on his karate training, which had been ongoing since college. He said the sport is both a mental and physical discipline that takes hundreds and hundreds of hours of academic and physical preparation.
“If you’re not studying its history and philosophy,” he said, “you’re not really embracing the art.”