'Obsessive' lawyer can't stop running

The finisher's medals keep piling up for Larry Macon, who's already started his 2014 schedule. Courtesy Larry Macon

It all started with a lie.

Larry Macon was sitting in a coffee shop in San Antonio with some of his fellow trial lawyers one Monday afternoon in 1996 when they started swapping tales of their weekend exploits. Some bragged about their golf games. Others about swimming or biking long distances.

When the conversation swung around to Macon, he chose fiction.

"They said, 'Larry, what did you do?' " he recalls. "Well the truth is, Larry didn't do anything. He worked all weekend. But I glanced at a newspaper and said, 'Oh, I'm training for a marathon.' Absolute lie. And they said, 'That's three weeks from now. Great, Larry, we'll have a party for you after.' Damn. Caught."

So, backed into a corner, Macon, a month shy of 52, started running and took part in the first marathon of his life. He finished near the back of the pack in "5:20 or something," but loved the entire experience. His curiosity piqued, Macon ran two marathons the next year. Then he began to run races closer and closer together.

"I ran two within a month in about the fourth or fifth year and I said, 'I'm OK,'" remembers Macon, 69. "And then I ran two in consecutive weekends and people back then said, 'You're going to die. Your bones are going to break,' and I said, 'This wasn't hard.' And then I said, 'I wonder if I could do two in a weekend?' And that wasn't hard. I feel fine. And so it gradually grew and then I got crazy."

Crazy, indeed.

He ran 105 marathons in 2008, which was recognized as the most ever in a year by Guinness World Records. In 2010, Macon ran 106 marathons. In 2011, he broke that mark with 113. In 2012 he ran 157. Then in 2013 he obliterated that total by running 255 marathons.

At one point he ran a marathon on 64 consecutive days. His best time was 4:29. His worst was more than seven hours. "A lot of it depends on how many races I did that week," he says.

Macon crisscrossed the country in 2013 to do as many as three marathons in three different cities on weekends -- including Friday or Monday holiday races -- often in different states. He flew more than 350,000 miles last year, with about 300,000 directly related to his races. The rest of the miles were for his work as a trial lawyer. But even when he traveled for work he'd fit in some marathons.

In 12 months he went through 24 pairs of running shoes.

To date, Macon -- a 5-foot-10, 150-pound former undersized high school offensive tackle -- has run 1,240 marathons, a total of 32,488 miles. He also ranks No. 1 in the 50 States Marathon Club, having completed races in every state 16 times over.

He's run the Frank Maier Marathon in Juneau, Alaska, and the Boston Marathon 10 times each, the most on his list. And the cost of it all? He's not sure.

"I absolutely refuse to count it up, because if I do I'll be divorced," he jokes.

But he says many runners count on spending about $500 per marathon when traveling -- if they're frugal and not flying to multiple destinations. That's not the case for Macon.

"I've done things like flown to California, flown to Vermont and flown to Arizona in a weekend," he says. "So you can run up the toll real easy. It's not for the faint of heart or somebody who's not financially well-off. Just can't be done. Unfortunately it's not fair, but that's a fact."

The obsession

Macon admits what he does is crazy, obsessive and compulsive. Maybe even an addiction.

"My wife, she is begrudgingly happy about it, because she says I am the most compulsive person in the world," says Macon, who has a Facebook page under the name Marathon Maniac Larry. "Before I did this I'd work 20 hours every weekend. So she said this is bound to be better for you."

Jane Macon, also an attorney in San Antonio, wasn't surprised when her husband ran one marathon and then felt compelled to run hundreds.

"Larry is, as you know, a trial lawyer, and trial lawyers by training are compulsive," she says, noting he was that way in his studies at Yale and in law school at the University of Texas.

"He's always been a hard charger and at the top of whatever it is. He sets personal goals that are always top-of-the-mountain."

She jokes that a 12-step program wouldn't be enough to derail his obsession. He'd need a 25-step program. Yet the bottom line for her is that all those marathons make him happy. And Larry agrees. He loves meeting people, feeling the optimism and enthusiasm of fellow runners and seeing new (and familiar) sights.

"It's a great life," he says. "I do the two things I love, that's practice law and run races. Life doesn't get any better than that."

Memorable moments

Macon has notebooks filled with the details of his races, though he admits sometimes it's the detail that's missing.

"On most I have a time, but sometimes, either consciously or unconsciously, I eliminate the time," he says. "It may be I was ashamed, or just wanted to forget it."

But certain races and incidents he'll remember forever, including:

* He once arrived late to a marathon in New Orleans because of bad weather, parked his car and jumped into the race about 20 minutes after it started (not an unusual occurrence, he admits, because of late flights and travel hurdles). When he finished, he discovered he didn't have his keys, and thought he'd left them in the car. Not only were they in the car, but it was still running – and unlocked – six hours after he left it.

* He arrived at the Chippewa 50K in New Auburn, Wis., completely unprepared for the cold. He was given a jacket and some bright pink tights that had "I run like a girl" on them. "God, was I glad to have those," he says.

* The "boy from San Antonio" arrived unprepared again at another northern race, in Minot, N.D. He bought a cotton hoodie, but that was scant protection from snow, high winds and a wind chill of minus-10 degrees. He was among 50 of about 250 entrants to actually show up.

* He packed three marathons into one 24-hour period in Huntington Beach and Long Beach, Calif., running a morning race, an afternoon race and then another early-morning race the next day. "The logistics were pretty easy there," he says.

* The Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Marathon follows the course of Nevada State Route 375 near Area 51, known as the Extraterrestrial Highway. "Race starts at midnight and you run until 6 or 7 in the morning. There's not a car on the highway and you don't pass a house the entire run," says Macon.

* When it comes to beauty, he ranks the Mount Desert Island Marathon in Maine and races in Big Sur and Coronado, Calif., as the best.

* As for flights, he doesn't remember much. He says his one natural talent is falling asleep immediately. "I'll step on a plane and the next thing you know, the flight attendant's saying, 'Mr. Macon, Mr. Macon, it's time to get off,' " he says.

* And then, there was last year's Boston Marathon. Macon had completed 25 miles of his 10th Boston race when he and others were stopped by police. Macon had no idea what was happening until he wandered into a nearby synagogue and heard the news of the bombing. He couldn't get to his hotel, which was near the finish line, and he was in a prohibited zone for taxis.

He ended up running about 1½ miles to a car service that was able to get him to the airport for a flight home -- while still wearing nothing but shorts and a singlet. He had his driver's license but no wallet, cards or money. He was able to talk his way through security and was given free food by a restaurant.

"I get on the airplane and everybody looks at me like, 'Why don't you have the decency to change clothes?' " he says. "They didn't know what was going on." But, wrapped in three blankets, he made it home, where a taxi driver gave him a free ride.

On a horrible day, he says, so many people were wonderful to him and to his running friends all over Boston that night, with local residents taking them into their homes. "Wonderful people," he says.

Popular guy

Macon isn't fast, but it's not always his fault he's so slow. Jim Simpson, a friend of Macon's from Huntington Beach -- who's also run more than 1,200 marathons and ran 90 races with Macon in 2013 -- says Macon's arrival often draws a crowd.

"Everyone wants to come see Larry and spend a few minutes with Larry," says Simpson. "At all the marathons he could be a lot faster if he didn't get stopped on the course all the time to chat a few minutes. People come up and run beside him all the time. He's a very popular guy."

Macon's name, after all, is big in the 50 States Marathon Club and Marathon Maniacs group.

"Everybody knows No. 1," says Simpson, who admits he's tried to keep up with or surpass his friend, but hasn't yet been able to do it.

Plus, Simpson says Macon's an upbeat, down-to-earth person who seems to enjoy talking with everybody.

"(Runners) look forward to seeing Larry," says Simpson. "All the women give him hugs, kisses. The guys shake his hand."

What's the ceiling?

Macon's off and running on a new year and not sure where it will take him. He has no specific goal except to have fun.

"It's hard to imagine that I would ever do more than 255," he says, "but on the other hand, I had the same feeling about 157, so who knows?"

Fortunately, he's in good health, has never had a serious injury since he started running and takes care of himself during the week, with stretching, massages and weightlifting. And as a vegetarian, he eats constantly, but is careful about his diet.

Guinness hasn't yet certified his 255 races in 2013 as a record; Macon just recently sent in the documentation. But it's likely that number won't stand long, as unreachable as it seems. Over the past few years, a growing number of runners are trying to push the limits.

A recent story in Runner's World noted that a woman in Denmark says she ran 366 marathons between July 15, 2012 and July 14, 2013, but she did them alone on a 3½-mile loop near her home. And other runners, including Macon's friend Simpson (205), eclipsed the 200 mark in 2013.

Macon believes that logistics rather than physical capability stand in the way of someone running 365 marathons in a year. By the standards of Guinness, races have to be official, advertised, open to the public and certified for distance. So, getting to those races is the hard part.

"The point is, there just aren't marathons every day of the year," says Macon.

After running 255 of them last year, Macon says he felt just fine. It's a happy day, he says, when he can get out of the bed in the morning and think, "Hey, I'm going to go run a marathon."

"It's really no big deal," he says. "Your body adjusts to it."