Taking it step by step

Frank Bartocci. Photo by Tracy Walsh
Frank Bartocci. Photo by Tracy Walsh

Happy New Year, Good Age fans! Thank you for picking up our monthly magazine, a perfect way to kick off 2019.

This month, we’re incredibly excited to introduce you to an extraordinary man, Rochester-based marathon runner Frank Bartocci.

When I first heard about this guy, I was amazed at his claim to fame: He had run 900 marathons and ultramarathons!

What? Those miles literally add up to the equivalent of running around the circumference of the Earth! My father, at 78, runs a half-marathon every year and I think that is amazing. (Go, Dad!)

But Bartocci’s not only reached 900, he’s shooting for 1,000. How is all of this even possible? Well, Bartocci decided to do it, felt super passionate about it and — in true Nike fashion — just did it. (Caveat: He doesn’t run in Nikes.)

I know what you’re thinking: This guy is crazy.

But Bartocci, who has as warm and friendly a disposition as any guy you’ll meet, begs to differ: “It has been argued that running this distance — and even running it regularly — is somehow not normal,” Bartocci wrote in a recent essay. “What is ‘normal’, anyway? If not for [pushing] the envelope, most — if not all — discoveries would not have occurred. And what lies beyond our current perceived limits?”

Bartocci credits the natural process of “the training effect” for his remarkable ability to endure the running of thousands of miles.

“As stimulus is applied to an organism, there is a response. Then removal of the stimulus allows for recovery and rebuilding — after which greater stimulus can be applied before similar breakdown. This is the training effect, where a body adapts, both anatomically and physiologically, to ever-increasing stimulus.”

That process, Bartocci said, has allowed his body to handle seven marathons in seven days. Has it been easy for Bartocci? Of course not. In fact, why he got into distance running in the first place is a sad story. He’s been through a divorce and has survived cancer, too.

What can the rest of us learn from this man? We can discover determination can take us places we didn’t think were possible, even into our 70s. We can stay the course when things aren’t easy. And we can express gratitude to God and others for all that we’re able to do, even if it’s not a mind-blowing feat like 900 races. Maybe it’s just getting out of bed in the morning.