Larry the Flip Flop Man

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted.  Now, my lovely wife has tagged me with a Trendy Blog award.  Since I haven’t posted in well over a month, it’s difficult to say I deserve a “Trendy blog” award.  So, I won’t be playing along with the tag game, but I will take the poke in the back and actually post.

With the heat index expected to climb over 100 degrees, Alice and I woke up at 5 am to hit the Pinellas Trail before sunrise.  After about a mile of running, we could barely make out a lone figure in the dark distance.  As we approached, we could see he was carrying a long stick and wearing only flip flops and long boxer shorts.  He appeared to wobble a little along the trail.  Since Richie and I have encountered many a drunk man on the trail early in the morning, I was about to call for an impromptu fartlek to put some distance between us and this mysterious man.

Before I could, he broke into a pretty decent jog and off he went.  Eventually, he pulled off the trail and we passed him.  Before long, he was aside us.

“Forerunners?” he asked, referring to a popular running club here in St. Petersburg.

“No,” I replied, “you?”

“Nah, too old and slow,” he said as he picked up the pace and left us behind.

We continued for another mile, climbing over two overpasses.  At the bottom of the second, we encountered him again.

“How far are you going today?” he asked.

“8 miles,” I replied.  “It’s Alice’s first 8 miler.  How about you?”

“I don’t know.  I’ve been out here since 3 already.”

“Really?” I asked, “Do you do that a lot?”  He seemed surprised.

“You’ve never heard of me?”

“No,” I confessed.

“Go to….no don’t do that.  Just Google ‘Larry the Flip Flop Guy’.  There’s an article about me”.

“How long have you been running in the flip flops,” I asked.

“About 15 years I guess.”

“So you didn’t just read Born to Run and start running in sandals like everyone else?”


We chatted for a while before Alice and I stopped for a quick drink.  We then passed him as he walked up an overpass.

“You’ll be turning around soon?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I replied,”probably on the other side of this overpass”.

“Catch you on the return then!”

Alice and I made it over the bridge and down the other side.  We ran out to about 4 and quarter miles, then turned around.  When we did, Larry was nowhere to be found.  We joked that we’d probably Google him and find out he died in 1999 or something like that.

About a mile later, we spotted him in the distance.  It turns out, Larry’s pretty fast when he wants to be.  We caught him on another overpass and I stayed with us until we stopped for water again, asking questions and doling out advice the whole time.  He runs the trail almost everyday, averaging around 120 miles a week (down from over 200 miles per week in his prime).

Larry stayed with us for the rest of our run.  It was definitely one of the most interesting runs we’ve had.  When I got home, I did Google him.  Here’s what I found:


  1. the world is officially ending. brian has blogged again.

    random, but cool! i like how he claims he’s not fast. (yeah right!) i tried running in flip flops the other morning while walking the dog. i don’t see how he does it.

  2. Saw him in Seminole park today. Thought he was joking when he wanted to run with me (in his flip-flops). Trailing him for the 3 miles, I ran out of steam. He kept going… Great Guy!

  3. Saw Larry on the trail this a.m. about 10 a.m. in Dunedin; he was running 38 miles today. I was on my bike and he was running slowly. We conversed while traveling the Trail and discussed my son’s running (62 mi. in November, Antelope Island, Utah and the Houston Marathon in Jan.), plus lots of other things. Larry is 67 and slowing down a bit, but refuses to take arthritis meds, too many side effects. Nice guy.

  4. I actually met Larry on the trail today. I had my backpack on and my dog and he said “lemme guess….. you’re going to be in Georgia around April on the Pinellas Trail”. He was right. I hiked with him for a stint before he turned off listening to his stories. Hope to run into him again sometime.

  5. This was my encounter last night. Dude is still insanely fast.

    Although a Blue Marlin-flavored Snoball from the little shop on Treasure Island was begging me to abandon my training plan, I set out for a 20km “long run” from Treasure Island to North Reddington Beach and back. To clarify, “long run” pace should be comfortable enough to ensure survival and ultimate arrival back at the beach where one can play in the waves and take plenty of gratuitous GoPro selfies for social media.

    Everything was on plan for me until I encountered Larry “the Flip Flop man.”

    With about 8 miles in, I found myself in my happy place: scanning the water for dolphins, carefully hopping over sand castles so that architectural dreams of young children would not be destroyed, and perhaps even wondering if I would score a phone number or email from a single woman on the beach. (this has never happened.) My pace was where it needed to be and I was feeling good.

    I spotted Larry on Madeira Beach as I was running South and he was literally “hobbling” north. He caught my attention immediately with his walking sticks, his jovial appearance and perhaps even a grandfatherly aura; however, I would soon find out that he was neither jovial nor a typical 70-year old dude.

    I smiled at him and recall thinking something to the effect: “Nice to see an elderly man out here getting some walking exercise and enjoying the beach.”

    As I looked down at my Garmin to check my distance and pace, Larry snuck up on my right side, precariously wielding his walking sticks under his right arm. Before I could process what was happening, Larry attacked and left this Wisconsin boy behind, as his decrepit sandals kicked up the beautiful white sand.

    The sight of an old man in flip flops absolutely dropping a guy in running shorts, tank top and high performance running shoes quickly caught the attention of folks enjoying the evening at the beach. I put on a chase – not necessarily driven by competitive juices, but more due to my fear that this guy was going to collapse due to the high speed (in sandals) that he was maintaining and even increasing.

    After about ten seconds of chasing Larry – Garmin data would later show that I was chasing at 6:30 pace – I realized that Larry was neither going to collapse nor allow me to catch him. I simply could not close the gap! I pushed harder and finally pulled up on his side. Let me rephrase: Larry most certainly slowed up and “allowed” me the privilege of running next to him for about 1/4 mile to the end of Madeira Beach.

    It was at this time that I looked to my right and noticed that this “old dude” had minimal body fat and clearly had plenty of miles on his legs.

    “Do you know me?” he asked without even the slightest hint of an elevated heart rate.

    “No sir,” I managed to get out as I suffered for my next breath. “I…just…moved…here.”

    “Well, I’m Larry the Flip Flop Man,” he advised, somewhat implying that I should feel privileged that I was dropped by a legend.

    As we “jogged” along at a much more manageable 7 minute/mile pace (!), Larry educated me on some of his running feats, complained that he hasn’t been able to run fast lately because of an ailing hip, and expressed hope that he’d see me again.

    “I probably won’t remember you, but look for me next time.” And just like that, Larry took off in the other direction at what appeared to be an even higher pace than before…

  6. Just finished a run at Indian Shores, and approached by the Flip Flop man. Asked me … “Let me guess … you are a martial artist.” I laughed … what gave that away. I told him I took Tae Kwon Do for 15 years. He replied “I knew it!” with a genuinely happy grin. Had a chat with him on the way back. Nice person. Glad to have met him. Told me about his flip flopping ways and googled it, and here I am. Impressive fellow!

  7. Just moved back to Dunedin and thought about Larry the Flip Flop Guy. I used to see him a lot of mornings during my commute to St Pete Beach as he made his way inland from Maderia Beach, always over the Tom Stuart Causeway bridge. This was circa 2005-2008’ish. I’d also see him on the Pinellas Trail around that time as well. My wife at the time told me that he once ran along side her on the Trail… said she didn’t feel threatened at all, and that overall he was friendly and fast on his feet. I’d like to learn more about Larry’s story one day.

  8. Larry’s still out there and going strong, although not running much anymore. I see him on my daily morning beach runs. He’s walking more now, but at a quick pace, and says his day starts around 5am and he goes until about 5pm. He’s a really nice guy and a very cool dude. Here’s a short documentary about him from a few years back 🙂

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