Thursday, December 12, 2013
Frank Wright is still competitive.
At 67, he's no threat to the elite runners at Saturday's 15th edition of the TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race.
Even so, like a few thousand other runners at the back of the B2B pack, he will compete. He has a time in mind. He hopes to cross the finish line within an hour of embarking. Failing that, he'll settle for a time that translates to fewer minutes than his age.
In other words, he'd like to break 67 minutes.
"Some call it a fun run, but you try to do the best you can," said Wright, who lives in Cape Neddick. "You get the adrenaline pumping and you go off."
Last August, Wright finished the Beach to Beacon course a few ticks over an hour, missing his goal by less than a second and a half. He had plenty of company. More than 38 percent of the field required at least an hour to run the 6.2 miles. Finishing under an hour requires a pace of at least 9:40 per mile.
"Last year, I was a loser" Wright said with mock disdain.
In college, Wright was an even bigger loser, in a good way.
Growing up outside of Lowell, Mass., he suffered with severe asthma, and as a result he didn't participate in organized sports until his sophomore year at Marietta College in southeastern Ohio.
There, he encountered the school's crew coach, who looked Wright up and down and declared, "I can't do much about the height, but I can do something about the weight."
At the time, Wright packed 225 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame. With regular training and exercise, he slimmed down to a lean 165 and wound up rowing to a small college national championship.
"Once you reach that level of conditioning," Wright said, "you want to maintain it."
He continued rowing after college as he began a banking career in Boston, and was part of two lightweight fours that won Head of the Charles titles. A move to New York City made rowing less accessible, and a hankering for fettuccine alfredo made fitness more of a challenge, so Wright began running through Central Park.
Gradually, he worked his way up to marathons and, after moving to Cape Neddick in 2001, signed up for a host of local road races.
"It gives you something to train for," he said. "One of the things an awful lot of people find about running is that it's boring, unless you have something to train for."
Seven years ago, doctors diagnosed Wright with Stage III non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He underwent chemotherapy and lost the hair on his head but survived the ordeal and is now in complete remission.
"My oncologist said I was a pretty sick boy," Wright said. "He said 'If you had not had that level of conditioning, you might not be talking now.' "
Currently enjoying what he calls his retirement career, as a waiter -- "that's good for your legs" -- at The Colony Hotel in Kennebunkport, Wright continues to run regularly.
Saturday will mark his fifth consecutive Beach to Beacon.
"I guess the thing I like about it," he said, "is that even at my age, you still feel like you're in the game."
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: