“I’m the luckiest man in the world,” says Larry Macon, a partner in Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, who nearly completed the Boston Marathon yesterday.
“I was at mile 25, when I was stopped and was told, ‘You can’t go to the finish line,’ ” recalls Macon, whose name has appeared four times in the Guinness Book of World Records for his completion of record-setting numbers of marathons per year — more than 150 in 2012.
Yesterday, it appeared likely that he would finish his tenth Boston Marathon. But at mile No. 23, police cars began flying past him and other runners, sending them scrambling to the side of the road. Unbeknownst to them, two bombs had exploded near the race’s finish line, killing three people and wounding scores of others.
As he ran between mile Nos. 23 and 24, Macon says, bystanders, including Boston University students who, like the runners, were unaware of the explosions nearby, cheered on Macon and the others. But as emergency vehicles kept passing, runners and bystanders began to ask questions, receiving a confusing variety of troubling and sometimes incorrect information.
When Macon reached mile No. 25, police stopped him and all the other runners, explaining that a bomb had gone off, the runners had to stop, and buses would pick them up shortly.
But the police told the runners they wouldn’t be able to get back to their hotels and that their cell phones (which few held anyway) wouldn’t work because networks had been shut down to prevent further explosions.
All around him, Macon says, people had begun crying. He empathized, knowing that among the weeping runners were Boston Marathon novices. Macon knew that, at that point, those first-time participants would be thoroughly exhausted, physically and emotionally, and deeply disappointed they had failed to finish their first Boston Marathon, the pre-eminent such race.
In their depleted states, some even complained about being stopped — despite knowing the reason.
“They had to understand, something had happened that was slightly more important than the race,” Macon says.
Penniless on the Street
For his part, Macon recognized the situation required fast action, if he was going to be able to return home to Texas. He slipped into a nearby synagogue and asked to use a land line.
He called a car service and asked for a car to pick him up, but the dispatcher hesitated, suggesting no vehicles would be available.
“I’m a really big customer,” Macon recalls saying.
But he had on his person no wallet and no street clothes, only a driver’s license. How would he pay?
Charge my account, Macon told the dispatcher, who retorted that Macon didn’t have an account.
Open one for me, said Macon, a veteran traveler who has crisscrossed the country running hundreds of marathons.
Finally, the dispatcher agreed to send a car but told Macon he had to meet it one mile away from his location.
“I have one more mile in me,” Macon thought.
He then placed a call to American Airlines, where an agent told him the Boston airport would be closing.
Did they have one last flight?
Yes, replied the agent.
I’ll be there, Macon said.
In the car, still wearing running clothes, he went directly to the airport. There, ravenous and with not a penny on him, he looked longingly at dining establishments. A restaurant worked asked Macon if he had raced today.
Yes, Macon said.
Eat for free, the worker told him.
On the plane back to Texas, Macon says his appearance triggered a few skeptical glances from fellow passengers. But since he has gotten home —without his belongings from Boston, which he doubts will come anytime soon — the kind and thoughtful responses of friends, family and even legal foes has overwhelmed him, Macon says.
He repeats his thought from the start of our interview: “I am the luckiest man in the world.”