Meet the Marathon Man

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A typical lunch break for Dennis Frisby.

Dennis Frisby has four daughters and six grandchildren with his wife and high school sweetheart, Fran. She describes him as a planner— driven and extremely detail-oriented.

These qualities serve him well in his professional life as an estate planner, but as it turns out, they’re traits that have also been quite handy in his free time. What started as an attempt to overcome his ankle issues as a young man has grown into a full-fledged passion. A passion for running.

When you ask Dennis to tell you about how he became the runner he is today, starting from the beginning, he will mention several key milestones: his first 5K, his first marathon, the first time he ran a Boston Marathon-qualifying time. Each anecdote ends roughly the same way, “After I accomplished that, I was done.” Just as a reference, the translation of that statement generally tends to be something like, “the next thing I do will be a much bigger and more impressive feat of athleticism.”

And giving up was never an option. Dennis doesn’t quit.

Once while perusing Runner’s World magazine, he came across a feature on the Pike’s Peak Marathon, listing it as the most difficult in the country. The grueling course climbs over 7,000 feet to the 14,115 foot peak. Her recalls that day, his 50th birthday, as such, “It was warm, like 80ish. You’re looking up and you’re thinking am I nuts or what? So now you’re packing clothes because at the top it’s snowing. A third of the runners come down bloody from having fallen.”

When he finished Pike’s Peak, everyone asked the obvious question, ‘What’s next?’ He would spend the next 10 years of his life completing the challenge borne from that very question. He decided to run an elusive Boston-qualifying marathon time…in all fifty states.

The road to completing his mission had him running a lot: running through airports mostly, but also running during his lunch break, running marathons with only two weeks in between races, and often running on empty.

There were exactly seven states where it took Dennis multiple marathon attempts to get his Boston time and check that state off his list. One particularly brutal state was Georgia. “Georgia shouldn’t be that cold, and it wasn’t my coldest [marathon] by temperature. Upper 30s, like 37-ish. But pouring rain. And it was at an Air Force base. And so I finished the race and they came up to me and they said, ‘You’re first in your division’ and they asked my name. My face was so raw from the cold and the rain that I was mumbling. After that, in invested in a waterproof, not water resistant running outfit,” he says, somehow able to laugh about it now.

We had to ask—were there days you doubted whether or not you could do it?

“There’s that pressure of doing it even though you might not be having your best day, and for a quick second you think why am I doing this? Then a minute goes by and you say I know why I’m doing it.” For him, the reason is simple (and beautiful): he wants to make his family proud.

Dennis finished the challenge in Minnesota, right around his 60th birthday. With extensive research, Dennis has discovered only eight other people who’ve completed the same feat. Check out more of his incredible stories from along the way below:

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