Francis “Frank” P. DeGennaro
Purdue University gave Frank DeGennaro a running start—literally.
An avid jogger, DeGennaro first put Nikes to pavement as an undergraduate. Matching him mile for mile was Stephen Weller, DeGennaro’s major professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.
“I caught the running bug at Purdue, and I’ve had it ever since,” says DeGennaro. “Five- and ten-kilometer races were just getting started then, and every fair in Indiana was adding them. Steve and I hit a different race every weekend.”
DeGennaro hopes to run a marathon this year, a goal that eluded him in 2001. “I ran the Philadelphia half-marathon last September as training for an October marathon, but something happened to my foot, and I was toast by the race’s end.” This year, he’ll add more recuperation time between half and full marathons. Typically, DeGennaro logs three to four miles several times a week, with distance runs on weekends. “I’m amazed at how the body adapts to distance. I’ll get up to eight miles, feel great, and actually crave more miles the next week.”
Although training is exhilarating, DeGennaro puts fitness ahead of competition. “Running a marathon is a life goal, but I won’t sacrifice running for the rest of my life to achieve it. My Dad died of a heart attack in his 50s, and there’s a prevalence of heart disease in his family. Running’s the way I take care of myself.”
Less aerobic activities also contribute, such as tending an expansive garden behind his 140-year-old home, just outside Wilmington. “The whole process—starting from seed in the middle of winter and going all the way to summer and fall and seeing the fruits of your work—is in my blood.”