Frank Bozanich is one of the most naturally fleet-footed athletes in the history of ultrarunning. He began as a wrestler and sprinter in high school, and later as a member of the track team at Eastern Washington University ran 10.2 for 100 meters and sub-50 seconds for the quarter mile. He would later run sub-30 minutes for 10k and 2:25 for the marathon. Prior to becoming an ultrarunner he served for 12 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, including a tour of duty in the Vietnam war in the late 1960’s.
Like the 2012 Hall of Fame inductee Park Barner, Bozanich moved up to ultras in the early 1970’s, when there were barely a few dozen races longer than the marathon in this country. His ultra career focused mainly on the short-range ultras (50km and 50 miles), mostly because it was almost impossible to find races any longer in the mid-70’s. The 50km and 50 mile distances were the first ultra distances at which official USA National Championships were ever held, and, eager for top competition, Frank gravitated right to them. His first ultra was a barnburner, the 1974 USA National 50km Championship in his home state of Washington, where he finished 3rd in 3:02, averaging under 6 minutes per mile. Two years later he entered his first 50 miler and won it in 5:30. Later that same hear he traveled all the way across the country and won the USA 50 Mile National Championship in New York City, running 5:36. Over the course of the next five years we would win two more USA National 50 Mile titles, running multiple 50 mile times in the 5:15-5:20 range, and ultimately notching a 50 mile best of 5:14:36. He also averaged under 6 minutes per mile for 50km three more times.
In his definitive history of American Ultrarunning, British ultra historian Andy Milroy picks Bozanich and fellow Hall of Famer Allan Kirik as the two key U.S. male ultrarunners of the second half of the decade of the 70’s, when ultrarunning as an organized sport finally went global and mainstream.
In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Bozanich was one of the first Americans to seek out top international competition by traveling to the big, fast European road ultras as they began to become fixtures of the nascent international aspect of the ultra sport. This gave him a taste of the longer 100km distance, which became his steppingstone to his lifetime signature performance. In January 1979 he traveled to Miami where, in warm conditions, he obliterated a stellar field of fellow Americans as well as Park Barner’s three year old American 100km record. He became the first American to break 7 hours for 100km, running 6:51:20 and shattering the old mark by 20 minutes. The solo tour de force put him at #13 on the all-time world 100km list. The following year he left his mark on a newly emerging phenomenon which would soon become the most prominent feature of American ultrarunning: the 100 Mile Trail Race. He ran 15:17:20 to set a long-standing course record in the Old Dominion Trail 100 Miler in Virginia, winning by almost an hour.
Of all the superstar athletes featured in the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, Frank Bozanich has ultimately turned out to be the most durable. He is the first and only one to have continued to compete seriously, and achieve ongoing competitive success in masters age-group competition, through to the present day. Now in his late 60’s, he continues to achieve competitive successes at a national-class level in ultra age-group competition. And he still does pretty well overall, too. In fact, he holds the unique distinction of having won an ultramarathon outright, finishing first overall, in each of the past five consecutive decades: the 70′, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and 10’s.