The Orange Classic 10k as it was called, was a cult race in the 1980s. Frank Giannino built this race with friends and has kept it alive. Jeff Benjamin provides us, the readers, a view into our sport that few might take the time to realize. In being both fan and writer, Jeff Benjamin makes the sport both more intimate and warmer. I like that about my friend from Staten Island.
Frank Giannino - Spreading his Passion One Step at a Time!
By Jeff Benjamin
Frank Giannino's store in the Hudson Valley town of Middletown, New York, is still in business after all these years. Incorporated in 1987, "Frank's Custom Shoe-Fitting" (where he has been the sole owner since 1991) has been a local staple in the upstate New York area. But, with the different "flavor" of runners today, combined with the rise of internet sales, Giannino has had to change with the times as well. "I had to adapt," said Giannino, who started working in running stores in 1977 during the "Running Boom" years and had to adjust his store from just running to other footwear as well, even offering runners and walkers the service of creating orthotics in-store as well. For many runners change and adaptation are usually greeted with resistance. But not Giannino. "I had to go with the times."
This ability to adapt willingly seems to be part of the make-up of the genial and humble Gianino.
"He's a better than average runner who really made the most of himself and has spread that passion to others around here", said Middletown native and Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist Frank Shorter. "He's just one of those guys who makes things happen, and he's very important that way...He's the key guy for running in this area."
"I love to run, but in high school I couldn't break 10 minutes for 2-miles," said Gianino recently on this writers visit to his store. "But I wanted to do something with it." Gianino went on a soul-searching running venture of sorts, and even went to Eugene, Oregon in the late 1960's to absorb it all. He seemed willing to do anything for running. "I did find that I had good endurance and I can run quite long."
It was from that gift that Gianino came upon his great goal, discovering a book called "My Run Across the United States" by Don Shepard. This would motivate to attempt to run across the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic. "I had lots of support and made lots of friends," he said.
"Frank and I go "way" back to the late 70's and early 80's", said Boston Marathon Race Director extraordinaire Dave McGillivray."I believe we first met at a trade show in NYC during that time and have stayed in touch since." Inspired by meeting McGillivray (who had successfully run across the country himself in 1978 for the Jimmy Fund) it was at that same trade show that Giannino's trans-America running dream was beginning to happen.
Giannino's Herculean efforts were rewarded as he actually compIeted the cross-country trek not once, but twice (one in 1979, the other in 1980), with the second one resulting in a Guinness-recognized World Record of 46 days! "I did a second run across America, too, but my second one was as part of a relay team...ha! So, we seem to have a lot in common", said McGillivray. "Frank is a down to earth, very gracious and kind soul. I remain amazed at his accomplishments."
A World Record didn't stop Gianino's passion. Looking to keep in spreading his love of running, he helped originate the Orange Classic 10K in Middletown, now known as the Classic 10K. During the 1980 "Boom Years" runners such as Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Rod Dixon and Joan Benoit came to compete."I recall Frank Giannino as a leader of the Running community and a force behind the Middletown race," said 4-time Boston and NYC Marathon Champ Bill Rodgers. "I knew he had run across the country and he was always a friendly, high energy, self-effacing hard worker."
The race still attracts many runners to this day, a true testament to Giannino, whose pursuit of his passion to run has left an irreplaceable imprint upon not only his community, but throughout America as well. "I've always loved to run," said Giannino.
One can say that running has loved him right back as well!
Final Lap--Frank Giannino's story has recently been chronicled in a book called "46 Days" by Kevin Gleason. For information on purchasing the book you can call Frank Giannino at 845-551-8270...This past Fall Peter Kostlenick broke Gianino's 37-year old record. "I joined Pete for his second to last day in October when he broke Frank's record," said McGillivray. "We of course talked a lot about Frank on the run!" Giannino joined Kostlenick at the finish line in NYC, offering his happy congratulations...Always the event planner McGillivray passed along an idea - "My goal someday in the next 2-3 years is to organize a "gathering" of all those folks who have run across America to share stories and photos from the long and lonely roads! Maybe right before either the NYC Marathon or the Boston Marathon. Maybe I can get Tom Hanks to come, too!".....Frank Shorter will once again be coming down to join Frank Giannino at the 2017 Middletown Classic 10K! The race, combined with events for kids throughout the weekend, will be taking place on the weekend of June 3rd and 4th. The race is also the 2017 USATF NY 10K Road Race Championships.
For further info please check out the website: http://www.classic10k.com/