Sharon Kerson is a Culver City resident and 79-year-old grandmother who is part of an elite group of runners known as Legacy Runners who have participated in every single LA Marathon since its inception in 1986. Photo by Chris Mortenson

Sharon Kerson celebrates LA Marathon legacy

By Michele Robinson

Sharon Kerson is a 79-year-old grandmother who hasn’t stopped running since the first Los Angeles Marathon, which she said is what inspired her to run.

“If LA didn’t have a marathon, I would have never run,” Kerson said.

Kerson is part of an elite group of runners known as Legacy Runners. A Legacy Runner is someone who has participated in every single LA Marathon since its inception in 1986. The number of Legacy Runners dwindles annually. This year, only 127 runners (15 who are women) are registered to compete in the upcoming marathon.

On Nov. 7, Kerson ran her 36th LA Marathon, which featured a new finish line on the Avenue of Stars in Century City. In order to prepare for this event and others, she trained every day for an hour.

“I finished the marathon in over nine hours,” Kerson said. “I am still a Legacy Runner. It was a tough marathon for me, but I finished. This was my 581st marathon.”
As a longtime Culver City resident since 1975, Kerson is a familiar figure in her neighborhood.

“I run every morning for about an hour up and down side streets in Culver City and on the weekends at West Los Angeles College, by myself,” Kerson said. “I listen to Ryan Seacrest and Top 40 on the weekends. I really enjoy that. It helps me run.”

For years, the native New Yorker has been seen running through the streets of Culver City. To prepare for her first marathon, Kerson ran the West LA College track. Looking back at her first marathon, Kerson said it only took her five hours to complete.

“The most amazing thing in the world to me is that I finished,” she said.

Nowadays, Kerson has to walk to finish the marathon, taking around eight hours instead of the five hours in her early days. When asked for advice on when the best time to start running is, she shared, “Start when you are young. Time doesn’t matter, just do it. The older I get, the harder it gets. It’s not easy.”

What is most remarkable about Kerson is that the LA Marathon is only one of the marathons that she participates in. Running has taken her all over the world. Kerson has completed 579 full marathons and is aiming to finish 600 before “retiring.” She has run six times in every state in this country and is working on her 7th time around, just 14 states shy to complete that goal.

Additionally, Kerson has run in 15 countries, all of the Canadian Provinces and Australia. She has competed on all seven continents and is only missing Africa and Antarctica for her second time around the continents. She doesn’t even count how many half marathons she has finished.

Kerson is currently planning a trip to El Salvador in June, a country she has never been to before. With all of her world adventures, one cannot help wondering what came first – the marathon or the travel?

“Definitely the marathon and then the travel,” Kerson said. “Running and traveling are great ways to see the world. It’s fun meeting people and traveling, it’s great.”

Kerson’s favorite marathon is in St. George, Utah. She has completed that marathon 17 times. What she loves most about that marathon is the downhill course and staying in the cute little town that hosts the event.

Her second favorite place to run a marathon is in Australia. She enjoys visiting Melbourne and Sydney, and it’s the first country she will go back to once the COVID restrictions are lifted.

“I love Australia, I have run in all territories and states,” Kerson said. “It’s a great experience. I have met people I am still in touch with.”

Antarctica was at the bottom of Kerson’s list and is the only place she has no desire to return to. In order to get to Antarctica, she had to endure a hazardous two-hour flight from Chile in February 2015, which is their summer.

“It was crazy,” Kerson said. “The weather conditions were bad, there was a blizzard, storms, and it was 33 degrees. It was an adventure. It took 11 hours to complete.”

Running has enriched Kerson’s life by enabling her to make friends all over the world and inspire youth. From 1989 to 2002, she trained students as part of a volunteer group through LAUSD called Students Run Los Angeles (SRLA). Students helped each other and were brought together by a mutual goal of completing a marathon. The program inspires students to achieve academic success through this life-changing experience; if they can finish a marathon, they can graduate from high school.

“The world is a better place through sports,” Kerson said.

Kerson’s enthusiasm and dedication to her sport are motivational for everyone. Her advice is: “80 percent is showing up and the other 20 percent is physical. When I run, a lot of people stop me and they say I am an inspiration. They tell me, ‘I hope I can run when I am your age.’”