Marathon brothers: Gainesville men complete 50 races together

Brothers Ricky and Kenny LoCicero completed their 50th marathon together in Big Sur on April 24, 2022. Courtesy of Amie LoCicero

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Brothers Ricky and Kenny LoCicero completed their 50th marathon together in Big Sur on April 24, 2022. Courtesy of Amie LoCicero

The goal was to run 50 marathons in 50 states. Brothers Ricky and Kenny LoCicero, both of Gainesville, completed their mission on April 24 at the Big Sur International Marathon along the Pacific Coast in California.

“Everyone was so excited at the finish line when we were congratulating the guys for completing their 50th marathon,” said LeeAnn LoCicero, Ricky’s wife of nearly 33 years. “People said, ‘Wow, 50 marathons in 50 days?’ and the guys said, ‘Nope, 22 years!’”

Growing up, their parents were runners and often took the boys and their brother and sister for runs around Stone Mountain. Both Ricky and Kenny continued running as a hobby into adulthood and it was Ricky’s idea for them to run a marathon together. They chose the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon as their inaugural race on Nov. 10, 2001. It was a successful experience — besides thinking the race was in Tennessee when it was actually in Georgia. From there, they decided to run one marathon a year in a different state.

“Then we did the math about 10 years in and realized we’d never finish because we were getting too old,” joked Kenny.

The logistics were a challenge in the early years. Ricky and LeeAnn have four children and Kenny and his wife, Amie, have two. The wives missed only few races over the years. The foursome created a string of traditions on race weekends — from yoga the morning before the race, eating all the carbohydrates they want the night before (like in Cape May, New Jersey, where they ordered cheeseburgers, waffles, French toast, and nachos for dinner), and indulging at a spa the day after.

While they recall all their marathon memories with smiles, the brothers don’t hesitate to recall which races were the worst.

“It was great to see Green River, Wyoming, because we had never experienced that part of the country,” said Ricky, 57. “But those first seven miles were excruciating. They were uphill, it was super hot, and there were few water stations.”

Another unpleasant run was in Olathe, Kansas. The brothers imagined the Midwest marathon would lead them through the zoo and beautiful parks, but instead, they ran a mile loop around a mall 26 times.

The race in Iowa was 16 loops. To make it less boring, the brothers talked the entire time, reviewing 16 years of their education, from first grade to senior year of college, mile by mile. They crossed the finish line together and took first place.

Their memories are rich and endless. The Massachusetts marathon, they remember, was like a tour of lighthouses. There was New Mexico, where they took a wrong turn and had to go straight from the car to the start line. The New York marathon where they ran with a mob of 54,000 people. Boise was a hit for its great food and beautiful scenery. The Vegas marathon ended with a pizazz, running up the strip with a sky illuminated by neon lights. They had a negative split in Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, which means they ran the second 13 miles faster than the first. They even ran two back-to-back marathons, North Dakota and South Dakota, then Illinois and Arkansas.

Ricky and Kenny’s wives, children, parents, and sister joined them in Hawaii when they ran the Kona Marathon in 2019. The brothers agree, this race may have been the very best.

“Running with our kids was the highlight of the trip,” said Kenny. “There were no expectations, you saw everyone at their best and worst, from excited to so miserable. We’ll never forget it.”

Looking back, the brothers say they are happy to be done, but there’s nothing they would change.

“Being together, seeing the country and culture the way we did, it was such a magical experience,” said Kenny. “It’s a great legacy for our kids. We showed them a great way to spend quality time with their sibling. They saw us sacrifice other things to prioritize this time together.”

It was always their intention to run their 50th race in California, but in 2008, when Ricky and Kenny’s older brother, Joey, a California resident, died of pancreatic cancer at age 44, their decision was finalized.

“I always loved my siblings, but after Joey died, there was a deeper meaning to spending time with Ricky and running these marathons with him,” said Kenny.

The brothers know Joey would’ve been cheering for them at the finish line.

“He would’ve made banners, yelled the loudest, maybe made a speech, even cried if he’d been there,” said Ricky. “But he was still there.”

A smile is passed between the brothers and Kenny nods.

“He was.”