EXCHANGE: 79-year-old has run 544 marathons, will run more

  • In this Sept. 10, 2019 photo, Bill Rex, 79, points to a map that has some of his races marked on it in his home in Geneva, Ill. At 79 years old, Rex has run 544 marathons, and he has no intention of slowing down. (Brian Hill/Daily Herald via AP)

    In this Sept. 10, 2019 photo, Bill Rex, 79, points to a map that has some of his races marked on it in his home in Geneva, Ill. At 79 years old, Rex has run 544 marathons, and he has no intention of slowing down. (Brian Hill/Daily Herald via AP) Associated Press

  • In this Sept. 10, 2019 photo, Bill Rex, 79, poses in his home in Geneva, Ill. At 79 years old, Rex has run 544 marathons, and he has no intention of slowing down. (Brian Hill/Daily Herald via AP)

    In this Sept. 10, 2019 photo, Bill Rex, 79, poses in his home in Geneva, Ill. At 79 years old, Rex has run 544 marathons, and he has no intention of slowing down. (Brian Hill/Daily Herald via AP) Associated Press

  • In this Sept. 10, 2019  photo, Bill Rex, 79, poses for a photo in his home in Geneva, Ill. At 79 years old, Rex has run 544 marathons, and he has no intention of slowing down. (Brian Hill/Daily Herald via AP)

    In this Sept. 10, 2019 photo, Bill Rex, 79, poses for a photo in his home in Geneva, Ill. At 79 years old, Rex has run 544 marathons, and he has no intention of slowing down. (Brian Hill/Daily Herald via AP) Associated Press

  • In this Sept. 10, 2019 photo, Bill Rex, 79, poses for a photo in his home in Geneva, Ill. At 79 years old, Rex has run 544 marathons, and he has no intention of slowing down. (Brian Hill/Daily Herald via AP)

    In this Sept. 10, 2019 photo, Bill Rex, 79, poses for a photo in his home in Geneva, Ill. At 79 years old, Rex has run 544 marathons, and he has no intention of slowing down. (Brian Hill/Daily Herald via AP) Associated Press

  • In this Sept. 10, 2019 photo, A map showing places where Bill Rex has run marathons adorns a wall in his home in Geneva, Ill. At 79 years old, Rex has run 544 marathons, and he has no intention of slowing down. (Brian Hill/Daily Herald via AP)

    In this Sept. 10, 2019 photo, A map showing places where Bill Rex has run marathons adorns a wall in his home in Geneva, Ill. At 79 years old, Rex has run 544 marathons, and he has no intention of slowing down. (Brian Hill/Daily Herald via AP) Associated Press

 
 
Posted10/13/2019 7:00 AM

GENEVA, Ill. -- Behind a door labeled "Rex Collection," a cozy office in Bill Rex's Geneva home is adorned with mementos of his accomplishments.

Desk drawers are overflowing with medals. Shelves are lined with trophies and photographs. And on one wall, a map of the United States is decorated with stars representing the marathons Rex has run.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Hundreds of stickers have been added in the past few decades: several in each contiguous state, one each in Hawaii and Alaska, a few in Canada. And that's not all of them, Rex says. There simply isn't enough room on the map.

At 79 years old, Rex has run 544 marathons, and he has no intention of slowing down. With races lined up through the end of the year, he'll make it to at least 550 by the time he turns 80 in January. But he's not worried about meeting any specific milestones.

"I don't really have a goal anymore," Rex says. "Just do as many as I can do before I drop, that's all."

Rex still can remember sitting in the gymnasium at Waubonsee Community College before his first marathon in 1979. He always had been in decent shape and can't recall putting himself through any intense training to prepare. When the race started, he just ran.

After that, he participated in maybe one marathon a year until 1995, when he made a New Year's resolution to run one a month. It wasn't long before he was exceeding that goal, traveling across the country to big cities, small towns and everywhere in between, including some national landmarks.

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Regardless of the distance from home, Rex usually never stays in one place for too long. He'll fly into a city the night before, run 26.2 miles the next day and head straight to the airport to fly home.

"That's a marathon in itself," his wife, Cathy, said.

Rex has participated in local races, too, including the first Fox Valley Marathon in St. Charles 10 years ago. He's never repeated that one, instead preferring to try out new locations.

In September 2018, he was in Ely, Minnesota. This year, he ran along the Glacial Drumlin Trail in Wisconsin.

So which marathon is his favorite? "The last one I finished," he says, offering the same answer he gives anyone who asks. "They're all good when you hit the finish line."

The sense of pride and satisfaction he gets from completing a race fuels Rex's passion -- though his wife would tell you it's more like an obsession.

He's been lucky enough to avoid injury, and his retirement nearly three years ago has given him plenty of time to hit the gym once or twice a day. So he keeps going, starting each marathon among the oldest participants, with one goal in mind: Making it to the finish line.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

To Rex, it's not about his time. He was once able to break four hours, recording his personal best in a Lake County marathon in the 1990s. Now, he typically comes in above the 6-hour mark, he says, "but I've still got the fire."

"Most people just don't have the drive or the fulfillment or the desire to do what I do, and that kind of sets me apart," Rex said. "Everybody likes to leave a little bit of a mark in their life, and I guess that's mine."

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Source: (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald, https://bit.ly/2ksClwx

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Information from: Daily Herald, http://www.dailyherald.com

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