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BUSY MARATHONER, 73, SET TO RUN IN NO. 860

Norm Frank says he had a rough time last year. He ran only 29 marathons.

That is an astounding number for almost anyone, but not enough to satisfy North America's record holder in marathons completed.

Frank, a 73-year-old Rochester resident, enters Sunday's Casino Niagara International Marathon with 859 under his belt. To accomplish his long-term goal of reaching 1,000 marathons in the next five years, Frank is shooting to run about 40 each year.

He has come to enjoy the races that are closer to home, so he looks forward to the Casino Niagara -- a race he's run each time since its revival in 1998.

"It's a really neat course on a nice day," said Frank. "On a windy, rainy and cold day, though, it isn't fun because the weather is usually right in your face. But I do like the course a lot."

The assumption is that running marathons would grow increasingly difficult with age. Yet Frank is entering and finishing them in as frantic a pace as ever. He started this year by running 12 marathons in 12 weeks.

Frank began running marathons in 1967. One of his most memorable highlights came during the Buffalo Marathon on May 1, 1994. That's when he surpassed Sy Mah to become the world-record holder with 525 marathons completed.

Frank has since relinquished that title but remains the North American leader. He ranks third worldwide.

Frank had a stretch in which he ran a marathon in 216 consecutive months (18 years). He's also run a marathon in each of the 50 states.

Last year, a couple of injuries slowed him. Frank missed two months due to a torn Achilles' tendon, and then near the end of the year, cracked ribs held him out for another month.

Frank's best time in a marathon is 3 hours and 20 minutes, though he now generally posts times near the six-hour mark. He does not run the whole 26.2 miles anymore, but he tries not to walk until the final 10 miles.

As far as his training regimen, Frank jokes, "There is none." But he walks a lot and usually runs 5 to 10 miles once a week. He credits not overdoing it as part of the reason for his longevity.