Rice alumnus Jack Lippincott ’70 is someone who can only be described as a marathon fanatic. The self-titled “King of Crazy” has completed 43 consecutive Houston Marathons and shows no sign of slowing down.
Lippincott began running during high school and continued throughout his time at Rice, taking part in the annual three-mile Baker College race. It wasn’t until after graduation, however, that he started running longer distances. His first marathon, the Galveston Marathon, took him almost five hours to finish — “way past the official cutoff time.” In 1975, he ran his first Houston Marathon, improving his time by almost an hour and “finding his calling.” By the time he hit his stride, his best marathon time was a mere two hours and 36 minutes.
There’s only one way to reach that kind of speed: train. In Houston, this can be especially challenging given the inhospitable summers. Lippincott describes the Houston heat, humidity and blazing sun as “the enemy.” In order to avoid heat exhaustion or worse, he runs in the early morning. He also mixes up his workouts to include biking and brisk walking, which has the added benefit of minimizing the toll taken on his joints.
Lippincott has experienced his fair share of injuries; the current toll is three stress fractures (hip, foot, leg) and a medial meniscus tear. All four injuries individually took place shortly after the Houston Marathon. Lippincott’s tongue-in-cheek conclusion? Coincidence.
Being involved in so many marathons exposes you to the best race conditions. It also exposes you to the worst. “All of us ‘old-timers’ remember the 1997 Houston Marathon race, affectionately known as “the ice bowl.” The temperature never rose above freezing, and it sleeted. “There were icicles under the bill of my cap and hanging from my mustache.” Lippincott’s mother gave him a pair of dry gloves at about mile 16. “They saved my life — or, at least, my fingers,” he said.
So why would someone choose to run more than 1,000 miles in Houston marathons over the years? For Lippincott, it’s because of the people who make up the running community. He describes them as “very friendly folks who are goal-oriented.” It’s clear that he’s an integral part of this community: unreserved and friendly himself.
Marathons also involve bittersweet remembrances of his parents, who have since passed away. His favorite marathon memories involve his parents standing at several different points along the race route cheering for him. “I still go by many of those places during each race and remember them standing there for me. That always gives me a lift, often when I really need it,” he said.
Lippincott says that he enjoys running now just as much as ever. “I think that exercise is pushing back the aging process somewhat, but I’ve never believed that it will extend my life span, necessarily. It’s more of a quality-of-life kind of thing,” he said.