Larry Macon holds the Guinness World Record for most runs in a single year. That would be 239
Published in 2018 Texas Super Lawyers magazine on September 6, 2018
Larry Macon is a self-described marathon crazy.
There was the race in Minot, North Dakota, with the wind chill dragging the temperature down to 17 below, in which he couldn’t see the road through the driving snow. Then there was its opposite, Running With the Devil, in the desert outside Las Vegas, starting at noon in the 117-degree July heat, with ice baths dotting the route.
Over the past 21 years, Macon, 73, has started races as early as 2 a.m., run through water, navigated felled trees and climbed over cliffs. He is no postal worker, but he has definitely completed his appointed rounds through snow, rain, heat, gloom of night and more.
Last December, he ran his 2,000th marathon. He holds the Guinness World Record for most marathons run in a single year.
“There isn’t a bad one; they’re all good,” he says. “You may be exhausted, and hurt all over the place, but it’s a feeling of accomplishment.
“Running a marathon and handling a long, complicated trial are very similar. There is so much tedious preparation, and then the adrenaline surges and suddenly it’s showtime. Talent is helpful, but ultimately, preparation and perseverance usually carry the day.”
Macon, who practices commercial and complex litigation at The Macon Law Firm in San Antonio, started his hobby in part because of a little white lie. In October 1996, after one early Monday docket call, he and several other attorneys walked across the street from the courthouse to a coffee shop, where the group would often go to regale one another with impressive—if sometimes questionably accurate—stories of athletic feats from the previous weekend.
The group went around the table: a few rounds of golf here, a mile-and-a-half swim there. Macon had spent the weekend in his office. Scrambling to find something more interesting, he looked down at the newspaper and saw the word “marathon.”
“I said, ‘Well, I’ve been training for the marathon,’” he says. “And they said, ‘Super! We’ll have a party for you; it’s in three weeks.’ I thought, ‘Oh shit.’”
It wasn’t too much of a stretch: Macon had run the occasional 5K, but never a full marathon. With three weeks’ notice, he ran his first.
“I felt every pain possible,” he says with a laugh, looking back. “I thought I’d never do it again in a hundred years.”
Instead, over the next five years, friends and colleagues reached out to him for support with their own marathon bids, and he ended up running a couple of races a year himself. When some friends in Seattle formed a group in 2003 called Marathon Maniacs, Macon was the 120th to join. (The group now boasts more than 14,000 members.)
It was as a member of the Maniacs that Macon’s passion really took hold. One year, the group’s president started a competition to see who could run the most marathons in a year. When they were tallied, the president emailed the group, believing he had run the most marathons, at 50.
In an email, Macon sent a correction: “I have 59. Thank you.”
The competition continued for the next seven years, and eventually he made it to the high 70s.
Suddenly, Macon was looking for records to break. Searching online to see who had run the most marathons in a single year, he read about an Italian woman who’d reached 100.
“I thought, ‘Well, that isn’t possible,’” Macon says. But it was: “I actually did 105.”
Later he hit 106, sharing the Guinness record with another runner. When someone else hit 107, he bumped his tally to 113. And when someone else approached that number, he ran 150.
On Dec. 31, 2013, Macon received a call from a reporter, letting him know an Australian man had beaten his record and asking for a comment.
“Tell him congratulations: He beat last year’s record,” Macon told the reporter. “Now I’ve done 239.”
Over the past decade, Macon has held the Guinness World Record five times. He’s won trophies—multiple times—for running in marathons in every state. He believes his more than 2,000 marathons is the record outside of Europe, and his 239 marathons in a single year remains the current world record, according to Guinness.
“I have a wonderful wife of 49 years [Jane Macon] who was the first female city attorney in the country and now is a partner in the Bracewell law firm, who raises horses as her passion,” Macon says. “She says that I have such an addictive personality that if I didn’t run, I probably would be a substance abuser. On some occasions, she wonders if I made the right choice.”
Macon shows no sign of slowing down: During an interview in April, he had just finished eight marathons in as many days. He’s done this up to 45 days straight, while maintaining a thriving law career. He works while on the road—and has been known to stop mid-race to take a client call.
“Running is the perfect balance for a trial lawyer,” he says. “Running puts everything in perspective. Losing that hearing doesn’t seem so important when you still have five uphill miles to go in the 110-degree Texas heat. One of my favorite junctions of my two passions occurred several years ago when I conducted a 90-minute conference call while running the Boston Marathon. I didn’t win the race—by hours and hours—but I did pay for my trip to Boston.”
Nowadays, he doesn’t care as much about records. He runs for the thrill of it.
“The one good thing about getting old is I often win my age group,” he says with a laugh. “In fact, there were five races last year where I came in dead last but won my age group. Most of the other guys have the courtesy to die or quit.
“Sooner or later, somebody will pass me, and that’ll be OK. Most people who run marathons are optimistic or crazy. It’s just a great feeling.”
Macon on His Numbers
– Guinness World Record holder (5th time): most marathons run in a year—239
– 1st in U.S. and 4th in world in lifetime marathons: more than 2,000
– 1st marathon: 1996 (one month short of my 52nd birthday)
– Number of marathons won: one—in Bear Lake, Idaho. (Just don’t ask how many participants there were!)
– Number of times completed marathons in all 50 states: 26
– Number of times finished dead last: too many to remember
– Best time: 4:15:00, but that was in another millennium