Local rock star John Hughes, AKA Johnny Seven, ran the New York City Marathon in 1996 when he was 39.
“I hated it,” he said. “People say ‘Oh what a great experience’ — No.”
It was cold and he wanted to give up, the former South Bronx principal recalls.
“I would have stopped, but I knew that if I had stopped, I would be doing it again,” he said.
When he was running past mile 20 in the short Bronx stretch of the race, Johnny Seven, who participated despite severe asthma that was debilitating in his childhood, noticed that there were no bands playing along the course as there had been in other boroughs.
“I said, ‘Alright next year I’m gonna be the band’ … there should be a band there,” he said.
Johnny Seven has played in the Bronx during the New York City Marathon every year since.
His stage name could very well be Johnny Determination or Johnny Bronx, because of his approach to life or his love of the borough he’s lived in for most of his life, but neither has quite the same ring as Johnny Seven. It has a nice sound to it, especially when someone hollers for him from across the street when they see him in the neighborhood, as in “Heeeeey Johnny Seven!”
In Hunt’s Point, he’s known as Principal Hughes, or after his alter ego was discovered, “the rock n’ roll principal.”
“I always liked the tough jobs,” he said in a recent interview at Ruth MacLaughlin Playground on Greystone Avenue, across from the street from the apartment he’s lived in with his wife for two decades.
After 33 years working as a teacher and a principal, most recently at Hunts Point Middle School, MS 424, Mr. Hughes called it quits on July 1.
Instead of his usual summer vacation, he took the night off and started a new job on July 2. He’s now the managing director of programs and services for City Year New York, one of 24 branches of City Year, a non-profit organization that sends 17 to 24 year old students into schools across the country.
“It’s like the urban peace corps,” he said.