Larry Meyer's marathon pursuits have taken him to some of the most far-flung regions of the world. There was a 20-degree race through snow and ice in Antarctica, and another that had him running across long stretches of the Great Wall of China, up steep slopes and through rural countryside.
“It took me eight hours — I was dying,” Meyer, 64, said of the marathon in China. “There were parts of it where you had to go up goat paths that were just trails. Sometimes there were ropes that you had to hold on to.”
He hits the pavement today for the Los Angeles Marathon. But whether the longtime Glendale resident is lacing up his sneakers on some distant continent or here in Southern California, he never loses sight of what he is running for.
Each 26.2-mile race he runs is dedicated to raising funds for the Blind Childrens Center in Los Angeles, which provides free comprehensive schooling and social services for visually impaired children.
“It is marvelous,” Meyer said of the center, which is near Los Angeles City College and serves clients from infancy through second grade. “What I love about it is it is small enough [that] if I go out and raise $15,000 by doing a marathon, what I do makes a difference. It is small enough to have an impact.”
Two decades of running has generated about $100,000 in fundraising though donations and pledges from family members, friends and supporters. The more remote the race, the bigger the payback — the Antarctica effort alone generated $15,000.
“He is constantly thinking about the children and how he can help and what he can do to make it better for them and their families,” said the center's executive director, Midge Horton. “He is a wonderful advocate as far as spreading the word about the Blind Childrens Center.”
Meyer's marathon running started in the late 1970s, early on in his career as an attorney specializing in probate, trust and estate planning. And it was nearly cut short a decade later when he suffered a serious spinal cord injury in a car accident.
He underwent surgery in 1989 and started a largely self-directed, years-long rehabilitation process.
“At that time they didn't have physical therapy for that,” Meyer said. “I started bicycling because I couldn't walk a straight line. I had to build my muscles back up again.”
In 1992, he ran his first marathon post-injury. Shortly thereafter, a friend connected him with the Blind Childrens Center, which was looking for some leadership as it launched its planned giving program. Its mission sang to him, and he has been running on behalf of the center — where he also sits on the board of directors — ever since.
“I think he is very compassionate,” Horton said. “He understands the disability, and the position a child and a family is in if they have a disability in their family.”
His injury means that the right half of his body often goes limp in the final miles of the race. But sitting in his office Wednesday on Brand Boulevard, Meyer said he has no plans to slow down. He would miss it too much, he said, pointing through a window toward his Scholl Canyon neighborhood.
It is a crisp 5-kilometer run from home to work.
Then there are the children, and the staff members who have dedicated their careers to working with them.
“This is just a way of saying ‘thank you,' I guess,” Meyer said.