There were actually two Runs. The first effort began on March 1, 1979, in Santa Monica, California. During a pre-dawn rain, Frank and his friend Bill Glatz scooped up some Pacific Ocean water. They handed it to their friend and handler, Rebecca Wright, to store in their donated motor home. The water would be part of a ceremony of "West meets East" on the water's edge at New York City's Battery Park at the completion of the Run. Run #1 began from the parking lot of the Four Seasons Restaurant on Highway One, overlooking the Pacific.
Prior to this, Frank and Bill often trained in the Shawangunk Mountains near New Paltz, NY. Arguably, New York's Hudson Valley Region is one of the best places to train on Earth. The mountain trails of the 'Gunks', world- famous for rock climbing, hiking and boldering, also feature some of the best 'Rave Runs' anywhere. Currently, the U. S. Marathon team trains there. The countless miles on the carriage trails of Mohonk and Minnewaska helped prepare them for their odyssey. After a rough start, Billy decided not to continue. He departed Run #1 early on day eleven in Phoenix, only after he was sure that Frank and Becky would be able to keep up the 50-mile per day pace needed to reach the finish in 60 days.
Despite daily terrain and weather challenges, Frank's greatest concerns were physical. Thankfully, symptoms that could lead to injury would disappear, despite running all day, day after day. Much of this was due to creative shoe modifications, lower leg compression hose and an understanding of self, along with the constant help of Becky. Frank, with Becky's undaunted support and friendship, finished Run #1 arriving at New York City Hall on April 30, 1979, sixty days and six hours after that rainy start. They ran through thirteen states, covered 2,876 miles, averaging fifty miles per day. Their adventures along the way have become legendary. At the end of a brief ceremony in Battery Park, the Twin Towers looming overhead, Frank answered a reporter's question regarding, "Would you ever do it again?" by saying he was definitely going to do another run: this time from San Francisco to New York. He knew that for his next Run he would need greater financing and a larger support crew.
Four months later, Frank won the Kingston Half Marathon in 1:12:05. Then in March of 1980, he finished second in the St. Patrick's Day 10K in New Paltz with a time of 33:00. All the high mileage coming across the country paid off, as Frank enjoyed the best racing performances of his life. His only other standout performance, time-wise, was his 2:39:34 in the 1975 Maryland Marathon.
Sixteen months after the finish of Run #1, after a brief ceremony, Frank began Run #2 from the steps of San Francisco's City Hall. This time his support crew consisted of his family and a friend. His brother John stayed with him on a bicycle to give immediate support. He had a radio/cassette player mounted on the back of the bike, as well as medical supplies and food for he and Frank. His parents, Frank Sr. and Josephine Giannino, drove the motor home and provided all-round support. His friend Bruce Goldberg did the public relations work, contacting the media, United Way representatives and running clubs along the way. Frank Sr., a retired male nurse, looked after Frank's health and the health of everyone on the trip. He drove and maintained the motor home. Josephine created a homey atmosphere in the motor home, did the cooking and calorie counting, and kept a detailed diary of her experiences. The family dog, Brindle, was on the trip too.
Things were not easy on Run #2. On the 4th of July, Stan Cottrell of Georgia raised the performance bar, completing a well-financed run from New York City to San Francisco in 48 days 1 hour 48 minutes, an average of 64 miles per day. Frank's original plan for Run #2 was to average 60 miles per day. Cottrell's effort raised the bar. Not only did he have to better that average, but he had to do it convincingly. Frank did not have the gifts of a fast ultra-marathoner, but he did have two things going for him Â— he had done this before, and he had the perfect support team to do it with - his family! If he was going to average more than 64 miles per day, everything was going to have to come together perfectly.
Frank's plan was to reach Fort Collins, CO at an average of 60 miles per day. After that, he planned to average 70 miles per day. The plan was to run 2.5 miles at 10-12 minutes per mile, walk a little, run 2.5 again and repeat the process through twenty miles; then break for breakfast for one hour; run/walk another twenty miles; break one hour for lunch; then run as many miles as possible into the nighttime hours. The first four days across California were rough. Frank's pace was slow. California roads were very busy. The family was not making enough sacrifices in an effort to reach seventy miles per day. Instead of foregoing showers and parking near the finish marker, the family would drive out of its way for a KOA, in order to be comfortable after the fifty or so miles they had covered. This pace was far below the 60 miles and ultimately 70 miles that would be needed daily.
With a renewed resolve, all family members dug in and made sacrifices. In some cases, the sacrifices were painful. Frank Sr. came down with dysentery in Nevada. John's bike was run over. Bruce survived stomach problems. Frank lost three toenails. Brindle, more than once, managed to collect burrs in her fur while seeking relief during roadside pit-stops. The stories, as on Run #1, are legendary.
Suffice it to say, things worked out in the end. The group tightened up the routine. They grabbed showers when available. Only Frank bathed at the end of the day in the motor home shower. Frank's mileage routine increased. After Fort Collins, the crew awoke at 3:00 AM; Frank ran 25 miles; broke for breakfast; twenty five more miles; lunch; then as many miles as possible by dark. They reached the 70-mile goal almost every day and finished in 46 days 8 hours 36 minutes. The Guinness Book of World Records still lists it as the fastest crossing of the United States on foot.
Many people influenced Frank's decisions to do these runs. None more than the efforts of Dave MacGillivray. One of Dave's many personal accomplishments was his 1978 run across America for the Jimmy Fund. David is the director of the Boston Marathon and is a great and cherished resource.