Frank Hunt started his running career like so many others — as a New Year’s resolution.
More than 40 years later, Hunt is still running. Not only still running, but imparting a lifetime’s worth of information and training to hundreds of high school cross country and track & field distance runners as a coach at Burlingame and Aragon.
“I was at (a New Year’s Eve) cocktail party in 1978, weighed 179 pounds and felt good. We decided we should get in shape.”
The following Monday, a small group showed up at the track at Capuchino to begin their new workout regime. By Friday, Hunt was the only person in the group left.
And he has kept showing up, logging countless miles. He has coached with and run with collegiate All-Americans and Olympians with his corporate running teams. He has run several marathons — including the 1982 Boston Marathon — and has simply made running a part of his life.
“I liked being out there (running),” Hunt said. “So I kept going. By February (of 1979), I was (running) 2 miles.”
Now at the age of 81, Hunt’s coaching career is about two-third of the 37 years he spent in banking and finance with Bank of America as he has spent the last two decades coaching runners at first Burlingame and now Aragon. Hunt had already established a successful banking career when he got into running. Never in his wildest imagination did he think he would have this kind of second chapter in life.
The fact he had a second chapter at all was almost by sheer luck. At the age of 61, after having already spent more than 20 years running and with tens of thousands of miles under his feet, he started experiencing pain in his shoulder that would radiate to the middle of his back as he warmed up for his workouts. After a short rest, he would continue his workout and feel fine.
When he went to see his doctor for his annual physical, Hunt was given some sobering news.
“I had 95% blockage in one artery and 100% blockage in the other,” Hunt said. “I had been running for 20-something years. How could this be? He said, ‘If you hadn’t started running, you would have had an event in your 50s and you wouldn’t even be here.”
Hunt said the doctor told him that his years of running had developed new capillaries that allowed his heart to pump blood around the blockages.
Hunt has certainly taken advantage of his second chance, having spent the last 20 years helping develop some of the best cross country runners to come out of the Peninsula Athletic League, a position he almost fell into by accident. It all started when he was recruited by then-coach Mike Fitzgerald to run at Skyline College as a 60 year old. Hunt enrolled in school to be eligible and went through the summer training session. In the last session, he hurt his knee, costing him the opportunity to run for the school.
Instead, he joined the coaching staff. At the time, Fitzgerald has set up three different training sessions — morning, noon and afternoon. He put Hunt in charge of the 8 a.m. and noon sessions.
When he had his heart surgery the following summer, he returned as an assistant at Skyline — and also started helping Burlingame cross country Steve “Obie” O’Brien. He spent eight years as an assistant at Burlingame before heading to Aragon. He spent his first seven years as co-head coach with Bill Daskorolis and has been the sole head coach since Daskorolis retired three years ago.
Hunt said there are two things that keep him coming back to coach. One, is the energy he gets coaching high school kids. Keeps him young, he said.
His other goal is wanting to get the best out of his athletes. Whether they are state-level runners or first timers, Hunt gets a kick out of seeing his runners get better as the season went along. He said of his greatest joys was seeing a student-athlete who could not complete two laps of the track at the beginning of the season run a sub-7 minute mile by the end of the year.
“That, to me, was a major success,” Hunt said. “I’ve been fortunate to have some good athletes. The biggest [thrill] to me is to watch improvement.”
It’s his competitiveness that Hunt wants to bring to his team. While getting the most out of a runner is the ultimate goal, he also wants to see his teams perform when the starting gun sounds. He’s proud of the fact that he has taken at least one runner to the state meet every season during his high school coaching career and helped qualify both the Aragon boys’ and girls’ teams for the state meet for the first time in school history, in 2012 and 2015, respectively.
But Hunt believes its his own love for the sport that allows him to bring the energy necessary to coach kids who could easily be his grandchildren.
“I’m constantly trying to learn the latest (running) tips and what’s going on around the country. … If I don’t feel I’m giving them the best I’ve got, I wouldn’t be there,” Hunt said. “If I ever felt I was holding a kid back, that’s the time to step away.”
But now is not that time. While he has certainly slowed his own roll — he said he averages about 8 miles a week after logging 40 to 70 miles at his peak — Hunt plans to be coaching when the season is tentatively scheduled to begin in December and will be out there as long as the school still wants him and his body allows.
And right now, his body still allows him to be out there.
“I didn’t think I’d be here (coaching high school runners) for 21 years now,” Hunt said. “How crazy is that?”