Remembering Jimmy Joanos

by Mae Cleveland, January 30 2024

James Joanos

1934 – 2024

Jim Joanos at Shamrock Scurry 5K, March 1989 Rex Cleveland photo

Judge James Joanos’ wisdom abounded more than in the courtroom.

He shared his running adventures and insights with his fellow runners during training runs, after races, and in “On the Roads, Again!,” his monthly column in The FleetFoot, Gulf Winds Track Club’s newsletter.

He ran his first race in 1980, talked into it by his kids. Jimmy surmised they figured (1) they would beat him and not be the last to finish and (2) they would get their entry fees paid. Jimmy walked a bit but crossed the finish line running. That most definitely was not his last race. After all, in his own words, “I was quite a jock. A little overweight, but still quite a jock.”

Did he already intuit he would be GWTC’s Male Runner of the Year? By 1986 he had run marathons from Granma’s in Minnesota to Marine Corps in Washington D.C. and from Chicago Illinois to Athens Greece, with Boston and NYC in between. And that year he won his age group in every GWTC Grand Prix race he ran and earned Male Runner Of the Year award. In presenting the award, Jerry Maurey remarked that Jimmy had a new coach this year, named Dr. Betty Lou!

In 1985 Jim and Betty Lou, his wife, best friend, running and traveling fellow-adventurer, started a Wednesday evening training group. The ten-mile course began by their home on Seminole Drive, meandered around to Lafayette and Gadsden Streets to Thomasville Road to Winthrop, then returned, making its way to Mitchell to Magnolia, and twisting back to Seminole Drive. During these runs over the years, Jimmy dispensed, usually with a chuckle, as well as picked up, running wisdom, lore and die-hard opinions.

Jimmy was a good listener and keen observer. In his monthly column, he shared the knowledge he gleaned from reading the experts’ opinions, his racing experiences, and maxims overheard by other runners after a race.

Back then, sending attachments via electronic mail was not common, if even possible. Betty Lou remembers dropping off a paper copy of Jimmy’s column and later a computer disk at the editor’s house on her way to or from FSU. In April 1989 for Jim’s twelfth monthly column, Rex Cleveland stated in his editorial column:

“This month (Jim) wrote about what gives a race ‘class,’ something he has certainly given our newsletter with his column. He writes the column mostly on airplane trips, submits it ahead of time and even has it on a computer disk so I don’t have to retype it. Thanks, Jimmy!”

Yes. Thanks, Jimmy!, for your constant smile and support, your wise observations, and for being everyrunner’s friend.