PROFILE--"Dr. Frank" Adipietro has a been running for 38 years

(11-18) Born and raised in Brooklyn, "Dr. Frank" (as he is widely known) grew up in a family where sports and athletics were not part of every day life. Putting on 50 pounds during medical school, he knew he had to get in shape. The motivation came from his dad, who challenged him to run a 5K. He is now a 15+-year streaker at the New York City Marathon and has a total of 48 lifetime marathons. Dr. Frank, 61, resides on Shelter Island where he is an Interventional Pain Management specialist Anesthesiologist in Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport NY. He commutes to work by boat, his Grady White 23-foot outboard, every day, weather permitting.

Started running? Why? October 1980. I came late to running, not starting till my freshman year of Medical School to train for a race with my dad. Initially we ran just a few 5Ks. I was quite out of shape at the time and 40-50 lbs overweight.

Did you have an early inspiration or person who motivated you? That would be my father. He got me started when he challenged me to run the 1981 New York City Marathon. I was out of shape at the time and he was starting to catch “Marathon Fever” thanks to Rodgers & Shorter. So a thank you to them as well for getting us started in our running careers.  

Later in life I met another inspiring person, my wife Mary Ellen. While I was dating her, she started to run
marathons as well. We got married in 1991 and during all those years she ran 15 New York City Marathons. In 2001 she had our son Liam and shortly thereafter an ankle injury stopped her marathon career but she still runs every day. As race director of the Shelter Island 10K and 5K races, she puts on an incredible event every June.  I’m very proud to be married to such a great person who inspires me every day.

How much did you run per week in your peak years? Now? 80-100 miles/week initially. Now 30-40 miles/week.

How did you train in your younger years? Back then there was more emphasis on total miles rather than quality miles. Hydration and use of energy gels and GUs were less prevalent in the very early days as well. Now, training for a long race can be accomplished with 30-40 miles per week.

How do you train now? Do you attend coached workouts? I put more emphasis on days off, cross training, stretching and energy supplements like GU/gels. I run five days per week with less emphasis on miles per day and more emphasis on a day off before and after a long run. At this point 4-5 miles per day is reasonable and a long run is anything more than 12-14. I’ve always been self-coached which is probably why I never won anything! Ever!

Last year's NYC Marathon
What were some of your memorable races? My first marathon, the 1981 New York City Marathon. It was incredible! My father and I ran the first 20 miles together and separated in the Bronx as my dad was not going to finish under four hours. He cut me loose to “run my own race” as I recall him saying as we approached the Bronx. I ended up with a 3:56:05. My dad finished with a 4:10:17. The whole thing was amazing! It was my dad’s only marathon and just the beginning for me.

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Boston 1986 was tremendous. I broke 3:20. My fastest 26.2 was 1985 New York City, 3:16:01. That was due to excellent conditions and youth on my side, as I was 28. I can talk all day about different marathon experiences. Without a doubt running different races and meeting different people along the way has transformed my life. I have had the great opportunity to meet running legends such as Joan Benoit-Samuelson, Bill Rodgers, Meb Keflezighi, Amby Burfoot, Frank Shorter, and many others who come to run our Shelter Island races. These athletes are my heroes and have inspired a lifetime of running.

Has your diet/weight changed through the years?
My diet has been more or less the same. Although decreasing carbohydrates and alcohol overall has been a trend.

Cross Training?  Swimming, stair master, elliptical. I run in the morning before work. Then swim, use the stair master or elliptical - one of the three - every day in the evening. Don’t do much strength training other than quadriceps weight training with free variable ankle weights.

Social running? I have my Streakers group in New York City and my group of Boston Marathon friends and we’ve done many races together. Even if I only see them once a year there is much time spent socializing with these folks around marathon time. These times have been some of the best days of my life!

Obstacles along the way? With all the running I’ve done in rain, snow, ice and lightning storms, I’ve never fallen or been struck by a car or bicycle. I consider myself very lucky. Once I needed a knee scope that sidelined me for two weeks. Recently I’m starting to slow a bit. But I still enjoy every second of hitting the roads daily.

A favorite quote? “Follow your heart, it is the one thing you can count on. Let your passion ignite bonfires, and feed the flames every day. The things we do should consume us. If they do not, our lives will have no meaning.”  - John J. Kelley

Running philosophy? It’s the journey not the finish line that’s important. Enjoy it; make the journey your goal.

How has running helped you with the aging process?
Running has kept me in the kind of shape that allows me to do things I ordinarily could not do at this age. It keeps me healthy, happy and youthful in many ways. There are very few things that will afford you those benefits.

Running 1981 NYC Marathon with his dad.
Dr. Frank is M999.
What are the biggest lessons (life lessons and running lessons) you have learned? I remember running that first marathon with my father in 1981. During the first 20 miles when we were together, he stopped many times to shake hands, give high-fives to children and talk to people along the way. At that time he was 44 and I was 24 years old. I didn’t understand why he did all that stopping (it certainly seemed like a bad idea if we were going to break four hours!). But now I totally understand what was going on in his head.

He was enjoying the journey that he very much deserved after training so hard to do the distance. After learning from his example, I have done the same in recent years. I think it’s important to slow everything down and enjoy it as it’s happening. And there’s no better venue to do that than during a marathon. The fun is the race itself, not the time on the clock. The truth is no one really cares what time you run. Once you back off the gas pedal a little, that’s when the real fun starts!

This year was my tenth Boston and I have enjoyed them every bit as much as much as New York City. I’ve been very lucky to experience these races.

How important is your New York City streak?  To be honest, I am not sure the streak is all that important anymore. I think putting one foot in front of the other for as long as I can in my life is really what this is all about. I never set out to reach any goals regarding a number of marathons or streaks of marathons. But I always kept moving forward and it seemed like exactly the right thing to do.

Two recent events in marathon history have also contributed to maintaining my running streak. The first was the deadly and destructive Hurricane Sandy that stopped the 2012 New York City Marathon.

The second was the bombings in Boston in 2013. Mary Ellen was in the grandstand and I was running down the final stretch on Boylston Street when the first bomb exploded. Thankfully Mary Ellen was unharmed. In the grand scheme of things, we were lucky. But here’s how I feel about those two events: these races were taken away from us and then we came back stronger and took back our races. That’s what the streak means to me.

These events gave those of us dedicated to athletics in general and running in particular more reason to follow our hearts, as John J. Kelley said. When Meb won Boston in 2014, I knew I had chosen the right sport. I’m proud to share the same pavement with him and others like him, albeit a few hours later! And no matter what, I’ll continue to do this amazing sport for as long as I can.