Pete Magill, One of the Most Accomplished Runners In the World, Is A Very Familiar Face Among South Pasadenans

For someone who spends so much time jogging around the Rose Bowl, it’s a tortured, but accurate analogy to say that running has come “full circle” for South Pasadena’s Pete Magill.

Growing up in La Cañada, Magill won the 1978 Rio Hondo League championship in the mile run before quitting the sport during his senior year over a disagreement with his coach.

A little over 20 years later, Magill “pulled my Nike’s out of the closet” after experiencing a health scare that put him in the emergency room and returned to the road. But not with the level of success he had grown to expect.

“On my 39th birthday, I ran for five minutes before I had to sit down on the curb,” Magill said, laughing. “I thought, ‘I am having that heart attack I didn’t have at the ER.’ I decided I would get back into shape slowly. It took me five months before I could run five miles. And I kept going from there.”

And going. And going.

The La Cañada native has made South Pasadena his home, his son Sean graduating from SPHS in 2012. Photo by Diana Hernandez

By age 45, Magill – who is now 56 – had become a top runner for his age group and has remained there ever since, setting records from the mile to the half marathon, and several points in-between. Already holding the 45-49-year-old 5K title, Magill broke the record for the 50-54-year-old age group in the 5K, running a 15:01. Last year, he set the mark for the 55-59-year-old age group by cruising to a 15:42. Magill has won six overall national championships, and was five times named the Masters cross country runner of the year. He has paced his club to a remarkable 19 national championships in cross country and road racing.

Magill doesn’t keep count, but guesses that he runs about 85 miles per week in 11 sessions. He doesn’t limit himself to just distance running, but mixes in eight-second hill sprints, intervals, tempo runs, downhill sprints and resistance training.

An occasional screenwriter and personal trainer, Magill has also penned two books on running with a third due out in the spring. He has contributed to several publications dedicated to the running trade, including Runner’s World and Competitor.

His next book, Speedrunner, will include a training program that was designed by his son, Sean, who is 23 and finishing his Human Physiology degree at the University of Oregon. Magill’s wife, Diana Hernandez, is an accomplished photographer who has contributed to his books and articles.

“She used to go to my meets,” Magill explained. “I ran a race where I set the American record and she had taken a photo. A magazine asked me if I had a photo and I sent them Diana’s. They started asking me to bring her along to all of my events and they ended up paying her more for her photographs than they paid me for my articles. They liked her photos more.”

Magill joked that he feels like he is 20 years old, “until I break a shoelace and I can’t bend over to fix it.”

And he has become one of the more familiar faces in the community. When asked how often he is stopped in public by those asking him if he is “that running guy,” Magill said, “Three or four. A day.”

Mitch Lehman
Author

With over 22 years in publishing and a long time local, Mitch Lehman is a frequent contributor to the South Pasadena Review and Quarterly magazine. He has received two independent Pulitzer Prize nominations and in 2016, Mitch won 5 awards in the California Newspaper Publishers Association's Better Newspapers Contest.

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