Thursday, August 18, 2011

Frank Bozanich: An Ultra Legend

“You must learn to lose before you can win.”  - Frank Bozanich

The latest issues of Marathon and Beyond (March/April 2011, May/June 2011 & July/August 2011) carried Frank’s story  “It was a Very Good Year…and a Half: A retrospective of the high points in a very long career.  18 months at the Front with Frank Bozanich.”

A present day Frank Bozanich at home in the Nevada mountains.

It was cool to read these stories and to know that I had hung out with this guy on numerous occasions.  I knew Frank was an ultra legend but it was only after the pure action of reading his story that it all sank in.  When you look up "longevity" in the dictionary you'll see Frank's photo there!  So, without further adieu, let's take a look at a few year's of Frank's ultra-awesome running career.

Warning:  When your head starts spinning simply take a sip of water, stand up, shake it out and then resume reading.

Out of 100 ultras Frank Bozanich has won 44 and finished in the top ten in 77.  He's the only American to win ultras in four different decades:  1970's, 1980's, 1990's and 2000's.  He's also won ultras in his 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's.

Frank Bozanich, Mark Godale, Greg McMillan and Ian Torrence at the 2009 National Trail Marathon Championships in Ashland, Oregon.


This was the year Frank learned just how tough ultras were and how much his training and racing strategy would have to change.  He traveled to Great Britain that October to compete in London to Brighton, a 90-kilometer race through the county-side of England.  Frank recalls, “I remember going through 10 miles in 56 minutes and being in 10th position at the time and wondering what I had gotten myself into.  I then hit 20 miles in just under 2 hours and thinking to myself that I still had 30 plus miles to go.”  He finished 15th overall.
Two weeks later Frank entered a 24-hour race at London’s Crystal Palace Stadium.  In this race Don Ritchie would set the then world record for 100 miles.  Frank finished 5th overall and recalls, “I finally reached 100 miles in 17 hrs (my longest run at that time) and let me tell you my quads were screaming at me.  It was difficult to run as each step sent excruciating pains throughout my body.”
However, things began to come together for the newbie.  On the last day of the year Frank conveys this happier story,  “In the morning Don and I did a hard and hilly 16 miler in which we ran 6 miles at 6-minute pace, then 5 miles at 7-minute pace and capped it off with 5 miles at sub 6-minute pace.  We then ran another 5 miles in the afternoon before running a 5 mile race.  I ran the Runner’s World Invitational 5 miler in 25:40.  Don managed to break 25 minutes, not bad for a couple of ultramarathoners.”

Frank (red & white singlet) racing the Columbus Marathon.

 1979 & 1980

It was during these two years that Frank took what he had learned the previous year and put it to use.  Here’s a run down of his incredible achievements:

 1/14/1979 Mission Bay Marathon San Diego, CA 2:55 Training Run

1/27/1979 RRCA 100 Km Miami, Fl 6:51:20 1st AMERICAN RECORD

“I was able to push myself through to the end and get the win and new American Record in a time of 6 hrs 51 min 20 sec.”  Park Barner, the previous American record holder for 100 km, ran 7 hrs 11 min 44 sec.

2/25/1979 PA AAU 50 mile Sacramento, CA 5:19:10 1st

“The weeks prior to the PA 50 miler I had training weeks of 136, 141 and 101 miles.  I was pleased with my splits during the race which were: mile in 5:35; 5 miles in 30:09; 10 miles in 61 min; 15 miles in 1 hr 31 min 30 sec; 20 miles in 2 hr 2 min; 30 miles in 3 hr 6 min; and 40 miles in 4 hr 12 min.  I was really happy having the ability to dig down and run my last 10 miles 66 minutes.”

3/11/1979 9 km cross country race Vista, Ca 30:30 1st

3/25/1979 Catalina Marathon Catalina Is, Ca 2:46:54 2nd

4/1/1979 UCSD 5 mile San Diego, Ca 26:10 5th

4/16/1979 Boston, Marathon Boston, Ma 2:27;00 187th

“I went through 5 miles in 26:10, 10 miles in 53:15 and was able to run strong from 15 miles on to finish in 2 hrs 26 minutes 59 seconds.  The trouble was that this time only earned me 178th place.”

4/21/1979 Spring Carnival 3 mile San Diego, Ca 15:04

4/28/1979 Mission Bay 10 km San Diego, Ca 31:45 5th

5/6/1979 Yakima 50 mile Yakima, Wa 5:18:45 1st/ Course Record

5/12/1979 SDSU Track 100 mile San Diego, CA DNF @ 50k

“Finally after reaching the 50 km point with the temperatures soaring to 105 degree I decided to call it a day.  I was running at 7:30 pace and finished the 50 km in 3 hrs 59 minutes.”

5/19/1979 Carlsbad 24 hr Relay Carlsbad, Ca 2-man team

5/26/1979 Carlsbad 10 Km Carlsbad, Ca 32:04

6/1/1979 Huntington Beach 24 hr Huntington, Ca DNF @ 88 miles

This was a rematch with Park Barner.  “I left the track for good after covering about 85 miles in something less than 12 hrs.” Park went on to set a new American record of 162 miles.  But improper lap counting nullified the record.

6/15/1979 New York Road 100 mi New York, NY DNF @ 50 mi

Frank was again racing against Don Ritchie.  “I decided at around 52 miles to call it a day as my ailments were not easing up and it would be a long struggle to reach 100 miles.  I stayed around and watched Don go on to establish a new world record on the road for 100 miles.  I feel fortunate to have been a part of both races that Don set world records in.”

6/17/1979 Central Park 10 km New York, NY 34:10

7/6/1979 Western States 100 Mi Squaw Valley, Ca 18:37 6th

7/15/1979 NCTD 10 KM San Diego, Ca 35:20

7/29/1979 Carlsbad 20 km Carlsbad, Ca 1:10:05

8/26/1979 SF Mayors Cup Marathon San Francisco, Ca 2:33:07 7th

9/16/1979 National AAU 50 Brattleboro, Vt 3:03:39 9th

9/23/1979 Michigan 50 mile Copper Harbor, Mi 5:05:35 1st

10/13/1979 National AAU 50 mile Seattle, Wa 5:32:35 1st

10/27/1979 Carson City Half Marathon Carson City, Nv 1:15:45 17th

10/28/1979 Mt. Erie 3.6 mile Anacortes, Wa 1st

11/24/1979 Seattle Marathon Seattle, Wa 2:39:45

12/1/1979 TESC 20 Km Olympia, Wa 1:11:25 1st

12/15/1979 Striders 50 Mile (track) Santa Monica, Ca DNF @ 33 mi

1/19/1980 Nookachamps 11.3 mi Mt, Vernon, Wa 1:01:15 1st

1/26/1980 RRCA 100 Km Miami, Fl 7:01:42 1st

3/22/1980 Monroe 10 km Monroe, Wa 32:20 3rd

3/30/1980 Lacamas 25Km Vancover, Wa 1:26:34 3rd

4/21/1980 Boston Marathon Boston, Ma 2:36:37

4/27/1980 JV Soles 10 Km New Hampshire 34:00

5/4/1980 Yakima 50 Km Yakima, Wa 3:09:52 1st / Course Record

5/10/1980 Eddie Bauer 15 Km Seattle, Wa 50:21 15th

5/18/1980 Revco Marathon Cleveland, Oh 2:31:00 15th

6/6/1980 Biel 100 Km Biel, Switzerland 7:30:00 6th

6/14/1980 Old Dominion 100 Mi Leesburg, Va 15:17:21 1st / Course Record

An old clipping documenting Frank's success in Yakima, WA.

Frank reminisces, “Looking back would I do anything different?  I don’t think I would because it was a great accomplishment for me and I think showed my toughness and consistency.  Even today in my sixties I still like to challenge the youngsters.  I think I proved that you could run back-to-back ultra marathons without taking long breaks.  I like to think that my runs in the early days of ultra marathons may have led to many of the runners today taking on back-to-back races.  I have always said that you must learn to lose before you can win.  I learned never to be satisfied with my efforts in races or training runs but to learn from them.”


Rennaker said...

He had some remarkable accomplishments. Thanks for sharing, IT. Today it would still be hard to match his competitiveness.

Anonymous said...

I ran against frank in my first ultra. I was 27 and he in his 60's. i think I beat him by only a minute or two. He came across the finish line dry-heaving from the effort. That dude is tough as nails.

Michael Bozanich Brookman said...

Frank is my Father and I can honestly say I never truly appreciated his efforts until I started running myself at 38 years old. Now 2 years, 4 1/2 marathons and one full behind me I have more respect for the man than I ever showed him growing up. He is an amazing athlete and a wonderful inspiration.

Micah Ward - said...

I met Frank at the Marine Corps Marathon expo in 2007. He is a very friendly and down to earth guy. He has to be one of the top all time U.S. ultrarunners.

Buck said...

I worked with Frank on the North Slope. Frank would run to work every morning, which was only a couple of miles. No big deal, you might say! During the winter months we saw temperatures around -30 and -40 below zero, with the winds blowing 20+ mph. Add that up on your conversion table. That would be cold! I beleived if a polar bear couldn't catch him in the first 400 yards, it didn't stand a chance.

ultrastevep said...

Thanks for writing this, Ian....I've been reading ultrarunning since the early 80's and can remember reading about the toughness of Frank and wondering how it is possible to run such times. Frank "is" an incredible runner!

Jean Pommier said...

Thanks for sharing this story, Ian (just heard about it thanks to a few relays on FaceBook). I feel ashamed for not having known about Frank all this time although he is still running today, including races I've been in. I'm delighted to see he'll be at Jed Smith and Ohlone, I'll make sure to stop by. Thanks again for taking the time to dig in such records, very inspirational!

Anonymous said...

Frank you are amazing and you are the bestest friend, and I am grateful for our friendship. When I read through all your accomplishments I feel truly honored to run with you. I am a lucky lucky gal.

Your friend Pilot :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey dude still am I but not the likes of you. You are still awesome and kicking ass Chris W. US Marines, Camp Pendelton; Marine Corps Track Team 1974-1975. Remember John McAndrew he was my coach. Best regards dude