by Bruce Strand, Sports Editor
Among the 44 runners from the Star News area at Grandma’s Marathon on June 22 was an Elk River retiree who has run more than 70 of those 26.2-milers.
“I ran my first one when I was 35,” said Larry McNichols, now 68. “A friend at work wanted to get in shape to go skiing, and I’d been playing Saturday basketball, and that was getting pretty tough, too. So we started running.”
McNichols did a few 10K’s before heading to Duluth for the third annual Grandma’s in 1979. He made 32 Grandma’s in a row before missing one to take a trip to Israel with wife and friends. In his 34th Grandma’s last week, his 4:32 finish placed him 35th among 65 in his age group.
Marathons have always been a family venture, McNichols said.
“When my daughter was 12 and my son was 9, I can still picture them, with their heads hanging out of the window of the car on London Road, watching us go by.”
McNichols also enjoys the enduring friendships on the marathon circuit and meeting new people. It’s a tradition for Larry and wife Margie to serve spaghetti to about a dozen friends in Two Harbors the night before the race.
Most of his marathons have been in-state, including Twin Cities Marathon about 30 times. He’s done Boston three times, New York twice, Dallas once and a Marine Corps race in Washington, D.C.
A lanky 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, he played basketball and golf with modest success growing up in Morris. His prime athletic achievements have come in the second half of his life, in marathons. His best time was a 3:07 at Grandma’s.
McNichols was an engineer for Medtronics. He lived in Coon Rapids before moving to Elk River 10 years ago.
“There’s great running trails here,” said McNichols, who favors Woodland Trails.
He has a couple more coming up this year, the TCM in October and one in Napa Valley, Calif.