NORM FRANK- MARATHON MAN
Norm Frank's athletic regimen will never serve as a model for long-distance wannabes.
He eats whatever he wants and many weeks runs only during the marathon. And his running
form ain't pretty either: a flat-footed version, wearing out just a single pair of shoes
FRANK: I look just awful running. I know that, I've seen pictures and I don't look like a
runner at all. I just picked up that bad habit of running with my head down and slumped
over a little. And it doesn't look good but it's been successful for me so I haven't tried
Frank has run in all but 6 of the fifty United States and in Canada, Jamaica, Germany,
Ireland and along the trail of history's first recorded marathon in Athens, Greece. Over
90 of his finishes were posted in ultra marathons, distances of 31 miles or more. He's
averaged over 30 races for the past several years, and it's still a challenge.
FRANK: You can never take a marathon for granted because it'll come up and grab you when
you least expect it. You have to respect the distance, the course and you have to be
aware of how you're feeling.
For 22 years Jim May has coached the Webster High School cross country team and
throughout the 1990s he served as an instructor at the Lake Placid United States Olympic
training site. There it's a gathering of scientists, physiologists and national
coaching running staffs who preach the correct mechanics and style for Olympic hopefuls
in the long-distance categories.
MAY: Norm is also a pretty efficient runner. He doesn't have a high knee lift. That's
going to make him comfortable throughout most of the race. He's not going to use those
thigh muscles, those quad muscles because he's not raising his knees very high. What Norm
has done is to be able to take his threshold level, the point at which lactic acids build
up in his system, and push it back a bit.
One of Norm's Rochester running pals is 73-year old Don McNelly, himself with nearly
400 marathons, ranking number six on the all time list. He's run alongside Frank for
decades. Last year the pair made 20 racing dates together.
McNELLY: He's a gentleman. I travel him, he's a good traveling companion, a good guy, a
good friend. But he's tough, tenacious, tough, bull-headed, single-minded. You'd have to
be to go out there and there and do it week after week. But I am in awe of him. I'm in awe
of all marathoners. I'll be running along and I'll meet complete strangers and we'll start
talking. I'm impressed with anybody who runs 50 marathons. You start thinking about what a
chore it is to go 26 miles- and what it takes physically and mentally, my hats off to 'em.
Ten years ago, Norm weathered a serious arthritic hip condition. But aside from a
pulled hamstring, he can't even recall raising a blister. Maybe it's because of his
limited running, usually just the marathon events, that's gotten him this far.
FRANK: I feel.. and I see this all the time, that the reason people leave running is that
they over train, they get injured, they get discouraged and they aren't patient with their
body and they do too much. And they forget why they first started it- and that was to feel
better about themselves.
Once Frank reaches king-of-the-hill status, he may allow himself to slow down, but
not too much. Germany's Horst Prizler is about 50 marathon's behind Norm. Entry fees and
travel costs continue to rise, but Frank still his eye on race sites in China, the Sahara
Desert, even Antarctica. He's just 30 years away from being the oldest to run a marathon,
at age 92. Norm says it's 50 percent psychological, now that he's got his body figured
FRANK: A lot of articles that have been written, the doctors have been kind of amazed that
I've been able to do this. But in most respects, it's because I've been able to mentally
keep this up for so long- and not because of the physical end of it. But I suspect
someone along the line they'll want to open me up and look me over.
Marathon king, Norm Frank. Bill Flynn, WXXI, 1370.