Donald McNelly

Don McNelly, an internationally renowned runner who completed 744 marathons, died Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, according to the Richard H. Keenan Funeral Home in Fairport, New York. McNelly was 96.

According to the funeral home's obituary, McNelly "completed 744 marathons, including all 50 states, all Canadian provinces, and 5 continents including Antarctica. He ran across Panama, completed a relay across the U.S., and ran up the Empire State Building. He holds the world’s record for most marathons of anyone over 80."

The obituary noted that when McNelly wasn't running, "he found time to make wine, keep bees, author a book on mead, hunt mushrooms, crash a plane, and get numerous speeding tickets. His exploits were detailed in a published biography."


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The 744 figure was significant because that was the number on McNelly's Navy destroyer in the Pacific Ocean during World War II.

McNelly ran his first marathon in 1969 in a tribute to a friend who had a heart attack. He was 86 when he completed his 700th marathon in 2006.

He attempted to run his 745th marathon in 2010 but was unable to complete the grueling 26.2 miles.

After his Navy career, McNelly returned home and rose through the ranks at an upstate New York paper mill until he had to retire as a result of a prostate cancer diagnosis.

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