Marathon Man

Texas man will run his 105 marathon Sunday--his 105th this year!

Larry Macon laughs at the notion that he's a serious runner.

Sure, he plans to run his 105th marathon this year in Dallas on Sunday. But he's not exactly running competitively or getting overly focused on each race, having once held an hourlong conference call while running the Boston Marathon.

"I didn't tell the clients about it until afterward," the 63-year-old San Antonio attorney said. "I was afraid they'd want a discount on the bill."

Somebody had to pay for him to get from Peachtree City, Ga., to Burlington, Vt., that day because he was running another marathon — that day. The doubleheader this year was the third of his career and prompts a simple question: Is he crazy?

Of course, he says with a hearty laugh.

"My mother got me all this education, and then last year I was named the marathon maniac of the year," Macon said. "I thought, 'My mother would be so proud.'"

Macon's story started as a typical one, with a mid-life crisis that got him to take up running at age 49.

"One day some idiot challenged me to run a marathon," he said. "After I did, I thought, 'Well, that wasn't that bad.'"

The site of his debut was routine enough — San Antonio. So was his regimen for several years after he started running marathons. He'd do two a year "because that's what the books say."

But he said he had "places I wanted to go and people I wanted to see," so somehow two became 58, which became 79 (twice), which became 93 last year. When he was around 50 races this year, he found out Guinness World Records recognized 99 as the most marathons in a year. At that point, it became a matter of "Why not?"

"Like most other things in life, it's just a matter of showing up and doing it," Macon said.

On this kind of schedule, showing up isn't always easy, though. Sometimes he drives between races. Sometimes he flies. Sometimes he does whatever he has to. When he was going from Fort Worth to New Orleans one year, severe weather shut down the airport and forced him to hop in a car. Heavy rain slowed the trip, so he parked the car and started running.

"Let me say, I wasn't a pretty sight," he said. "I hadn't showered. I hadn't shaved. I was ugly."

Yes, Macon has run all the biggies. He loves New York and Boston. He loves to know that thousands are running and sometimes millions watching.

But he's no marathon snob, also taking part in lesser-known races.

Macon said the Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Marathon runs on a stretch of Nevada highway known for its history of reported UFO sightings.

"Everybody dresses up in these weird heads," he said. "You run for 26 miles to a town called Rachel, and there's not a car on the highway, there's not a light, there's not a house that you pass. It was eerie."

It couldn't have been any more strange than the way his body reacts to all this.

Aside from normal bouts with soreness — particularly on back-to-back days — Macon hasn't had any physical problems. His knees are holding up just fine, to the surprise of a personal physician who Macon said told him he "shouldn't be doing this."

"He just says that I'm very lucky," Macon said. "He says something bad's going to happen. I say, 'Yeah. OK.' It hadn't yet."

Dr. Ben Levine, an exercise specialist in Dallas, said a body's ability to handle high-mileage running depends largely on the structure of muscles, bones and joints and the runner's gait, or style. Since Macon limits his training to roughly 16 miles a week, his typical two-marathon week amounts to about 70 miles.

Levine said there are plenty of runners going that far in a week.

"He must be recovering well ... or else he wouldn't be able to run his next marathon," said Levine, a professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and a staff member at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas.

It probably helps that Macon's not too worried about his time. He sometimes finishes in the four-hour range but thinks of himself mostly as a five-hour guy. The world record is 2 hours, 3 minutes and 59 seconds, and Macon gets a simple thrill from knowing he sometimes runs the same course with those world-class athletes.

"It's like some golfer being able to go out and play with Tiger Woods," Macon said. "As slow as I run, you can talk to people. You meet hundreds of people. It's just a great thing."

If the record is 99 (a Guinness representative didn't return phone calls seeking comment), Macon broke it with his 100th race in Seattle on Nov. 29. He's scheduled for No. 104 Saturday in Huntsville, Ala., before calling it a year at the White Rock Marathon a day later.

He might never have contemplated the record if he'd been caught up on his marathon reading. Besides those books that say stop at two a year, there's another that says the maximum a body can handle is 100 — in a lifetime.

After 100, "your body will crumble and fall apart. Your knees will go out," Macon said of the book's basis. "The bad news is, I didn't read the book until after I had already done over 100."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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