It is winter in SoCal and Deo Jerome sits at his laptop looking out the window of a small room in his home which has doubled as his teaching space for the last 5 months though it seems even longer with COVID tearing through Los Angeles on a daily basis.
He looks at his screen and begins the days Algebra lesson for his high students, a review of graphing lines. Taking a short break he looks out that window and a smile comes over his face as his mind wanders to the past 24 years of his life. A life filled with sadness and joy, gratitude, happiness and precious friendships from all over the world. It has been a life not always roses but a life rewarded by his love for running. A life filled with marathons. Los Angeles, Antarctica, Cape Town, New York. 486 marathons. Not a typo. 486 marathons. Oh and a marathon in all 50 states for good measure.
His legs have more mileage than some cars I have had....
His story began in 1988 when he left the Philipines with his mother and moved to California.
He had a degree in math and hopes for a new career in teaching.
They were for formidable years for Deo back in the 90s. Teaching did not come right away so he worked 4 part-time jobs of which his first was with Mrs. Fields Cookies.
Work kept him busy but eventually he would become a Full-Time Teacher in 1999.
"I didn't run back then" he said.
"The only people who run in the Philipines are the soldiers and police, it's to hot."
"But I would take my sister to the LA Marathon and while she ran I would sleep in the car and wake up to greet her at the finish. Then one day at a 5k she was running,I thought hmmm I could do this and now here I am."
In 1996 "Forrest Gump" would become his favorite movie which in turn led to him to running, with a short foray into race walking. "My first race walking event was a mile and I got lapped," through his chuckles he tells me the walker who lapped him was an Olympian.
In his humble beginnings he says he did not know much about shoes so would run in the cheapest pair he could find which gave him stress fractures. Ouch.
For the past 24 years Deo has touched many people and many start lines. What he loves most is the students who join him in Students Run LA Program of which many have remarked, "You brought the runner out in me."
Deo never focuses on time in an event. "It gives me to much stress" he says.
Life is stress. Running shouldn't be.
"I am a self-proclaimed hoarder Coach. I used to put all my medals on hangers but then we had an earthquake and they were knocked off the wall so they are in shoe boxes. A lot of shoe boxes. I keep my shoes and send them to Race Directors in the Phillipines and sometimes those shoes win!"
If there is one song that sums up his life he tells me it is "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor.
We all have our days....the ones we can barely survive... days that only a good run can cure.....
In the fading light of another SoCal night, Deo pulls out one of his many picture albums. Pictures of years and marathons past that he loves to reminisce about. Social media allows him to communicate with long time friends around the world. It brings a smile to his face and warms his heart...
After being in his company a few times I can tell you his laugh and cheerfulness are infectious to all those around him.
Good energy from a good person is hard to find these days.
My wish is that you all have someone who brings a little Deo into your life. Be thankful!
(Deo Jerome is a Hylands Ambassador and Algebra Teacher whose students scare numbers)