Perhaps the most astonishing fact about Larry Macon isn’t that he has completed 1,604 marathons since he began running just shy of his 52nd birthday — but that at 71, he keeps coming back for more.
Two years ago, at the tender age of 69, Macon entered the Guinness World Records for running the “most marathons in one year:’’ 239 in 2013.
No wonder he’s the reigning champ of the 50 States Marathon Club, having run a marathon at least 21 times in every state except Michigan, where he has only run the 26.2-mile distance 20 times.
“It’s so weird, isn’t it?” the Yale and University of Texas-educated San Antonio trial lawyer admitted in his Texas twang.
On Saturday, Macon will run the Team Loco Marathon in Conway, Arkansas, then board a plane to Miami, arrive at midnight, take a cab to his hotel, sleep “maybe two or two-and-a-half hours’’ and join 24,000 others outside AmericanAirlines Arena for the 6 a.m. Sunday start of the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon.
“I’ll be fine,’’ said Macon, a witty, self-deprecating, friendly-to-a-fault man who clearly does not know the meaning of quit and travels about 300,000 miles a year to get to his races. “I’ll tell myself I’ll sleep on the way back home.’’
Macon, a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, had a marathon best of 4 hours 15 minutes 4 seconds at the 2007 Valentine Marathon in Olympia, Washington. He ran Miami its inaugural year in 2003, then 2004, 2005 and 2007.
“I miss it,” Macon said. “It’s a really pretty race. I like the part where you go through the old Art Deco District. And it’s really neat when you’re running across the bridges early in the morning in the dark.”
These days, to preserve a body that ran 185 marathons last year (that’s 4,847 miles logged, not including the 12 to 16 weekly miles in between the races), he finishes in about 5 ½ hours. “There are snails and tourists passing you,” he joked, “but that’s OK. The good thing is when you get to be as old as I am you always do well in your age group.”
Macon said his hardest marathons have included one at more than 9,700 feet in elevation in Madison County, Montana; a trail race in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he fell over roots 10 times in a mile; one in driving snow and a wind chill below zero in Minot, North Dakota; and one in San Antonio, where the thermometer reached over 105.
He said mountains and lakes and fall foliage marathons “are often spectacular,’’ but he loves running near the ocean, as he will Sunday on South Beach.
Macon’s strangest marathon is the Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Marathon in Rachel, Nevada. “It begins at midnight on a deserted highway where there have been numerous ET sightings,’’ he said, “and continues for 26 miles with no lights of any kind. No cars, no houses — nothing but a full moon and the most stars you will ever see.’’
Many of the ET runners, Macon said, dress as aliens.
Macon, a vegetarian, said he has never been injured enough to stop his marathon mania. He said he has a personal trainer “who works me out to make sure I have enough upper-body strength to pick up my medals’’ and gets a weekly massage to alleviate his minimal soreness.
He goes through 12 pairs of running shoes a year, and has to cut out the side of his size 11 6E left shoe to accommodate a giant bunion.
He laughed that he has “shrunk’’ to 5-10 and weighs 150. Regularly running three marathons in a weekend — he ran four the first four days of 2016 because New Year’s Day was on a Friday — keeps one trim. But Macon said he is “absolutely never bored’’ of running.
“Running these races is the most wonderful experience you could have,’’ Macon said. “You’re outside talking to a bunch of really happy, optimistic people. Most people don’t accomplish things within six hours — my trials can take five years. But when you run a marathon you’re accomplishing something monumental.”
Macon has plenty of stories to tell, and likes to chat during races. Sometimes he works while running, and often runs marathons around the country that coincide with hearings or meetings. During the 2008 Boston Marathon, he had a 90-minute conference call with other lawyers regarding a multimillion-dollar patent infringement case. As Macon approached the famous — or infamous — Heartbreak Hill, he said, “Guys, I’m out of this call,” and chugged up the hill.
“You’ve hit the jackpot in finding the most famous marathoner I can think of,’’ said Jim Simpson, 74, who lives in Huntington Beach, California, and has completed 1,460 marathons since 1988.
“Larry is a great guy. Everyone talks to him. The women hug and kiss him and all the guys shake his hand and tell him where they saw him last. He remembers everyone he saw the previous year, and would probably finish a lot faster if he didn’t stop to take pictures and talk.
“I’m a regular, blue-collar guy who worked in a machine shop. And Larry is one of the top patent lawyers in the country, but he is so humble that you’d never know it.”
Matthew Hamidullah, 66, a retired federal prison warden from Charlotte, North Carolina, is another marathon friend of Macon’s.
“Let me be clear,” said Hamidullah, who finished his 293rd marathon last weekend. “I’m a power walker just plodding along. What Larry does in a tight time span and over time-zone changes is remarkable. The recovery time is minimal when you’re running three marathons or more in a weekend.
“Larry is the consummate extrovert. He’s gracious to everyone and a great conversationalist. I consider Larry the greatest long-distance marathoner in the western hemisphere.”
Macon, who has no children, is married to Jane Macon, a fellow lawyer and chairman of the board of Siebert Financial Corporation. Jane met him the first day of classes at Texas Law School. She doesn’t run, but raises 400 miniature horses. She also scuba dives with her husband, the two having done more than 1,000 dives around the world.
“What he does is fabulous,’’ Jane Macon said. “He went to Yale and did very well, went to law school and did very well. He has tried many landmark cases, but the funny part is he is known more for his running than for being an internationally acclaimed litigator.”
And that’s just fine with Macon, who said he’d like to run about 150 marathons this year.
“After age 70 the people I’ve seen, something happens to them and they seem to fall off the cliff,’’ he said. “I’ve just been lucky. At some point my legs will drop off, but until they do … ”
It’s on to Miami.
Miami Marathon and Half Marathon
When, where: 6 a.m. start Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami.
Who: 24,000 combined field.
Late registration: $170 marathon; $150 half marathon, at expo.
Health and Fitness Expo: noon to 7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Mana Wynwood, 318 NW 23rd St., Miami, 33127. Free admission. Shuttles to and from expo are available at Bayside, the Miami Beach Convention Center and the Midtown neighborhood at 32nd Street and North Miami Avenue
Noteworthy: Tropical 5K in Miami Beach is at 7:30 a.m. Saturday with Watson Island start and Nikki Beach finish (1 Washington Ave.). Cost is $50. Visit themiamimarathon.com for more information on marathon-related events.