Running for gold and respect for Baltimore


— William Johns, 56, will put on for his beloved city at the World Masters Games next spring in Auckland, New Zealand.

The lifelong Charm City resident will compete in track and field games at the world’s largest multi-sporting event. He hopes to bring home the gold. But more than anything, he wants to use this global platform to inspire the people in his own community and to share the true spirit of Baltimore with the world— a spirit of resilience. The same spirit that saw Johns through competitions at local and national levels of the Senior Olympics, a prerequisite for competing in the World Masters Games.

Johns will have the honor of carrying the Maryland flag during the opening ceremonies.

“I work seven days a week and you’ve got to live life despite so much negativity,” Johns said. “I’m proud to be from Baltimore and I’m doing this so that young people can see positive things. There is all of this killing, all of this negativity that’s associated with being from Baltimore and I’m thinking that, with these games, I can make an imprint; I can show something positive about Baltimore.”

The Games began in 1985 in Toronto, Canada and is held every four years. The goal of the event is to broaden the message of the original Olympics Games mantra, “sport for all,” by encouraging participation in sport across the lifespan. The philosophies of the Masters Games are to promote friendship and understanding, along with competition, between mature sports people regardless of age, gender, race, religion, or sport status. Anyone is welcome to participate, and participation is not limited to competition. Individuals and teams can sign up just for fun.

“I had read about the Senior Olympics as I was turning 51 and I decided to try out,” Johns said, who went on to win Silver in the 100 and 200-meter hurdles and Gold in the 400.

“I realized that you had to quality in the Senior Olympics in your state to go to the nationals and I started winning medals and meeting different people.”

Not only was Johns enjoying the competition, but he also looks forward to meeting new people and building new relationships through is participation in the game franchise. He participated in the USA Nationals in Minnesota earlier this year where he qualified for the World Masters Games.

“A lady saw me wearing black and gold and asked me if I was from Pittsburgh,” Johns said. “I told her that I’m from Baltimore where the Ravens play. I had to let her know about the positives of Baltimore.”

At the World Masters Games, Johns will compete among 25,000 athletes from 100 countries, representing 28 sports and 45 disciplines.

Johns, a veteran automotive supervisor in the city’s General Services Department, began track and field as a high school student in the ‘70s. Years of dedication and grueling training led him to a state championship win and a No. 1 ranking.

In 1978, Johns’ running and hurdling abilities took him all the way to the Junior Olympics, where he captured a Silver Medal and became a contender for the Olympics in California. In 2011, he competed in the Maryland Senior Olympics, winning Silver and Gold.

He continued all the way to the 2013 National Senior Games in Cleveland, Ohio where his wins qualified him for the relay team that took second place.

A year later, Johns took the Silver medal in the Delaware Senior Olympics and in 2015, the Bronze at the National Senior Games in Minnesota.

He says his wife, Patrice Ross Johns; son, William Johns; and daughter, Tanaia Johnson, have been inspirations. His mother is the one person he hopes will make it out to next year’s race. He said for whatever reason, she’s never see him compete.

“But, I’m going to give it my all and do something positive for Baltimore. I’m planning to go to New Zealand and give them all a great show.”