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Frank Zuna

Sport: Marathon

Born: January 2, 1893

Died: January 1983

Town: Newark

Frank Thomas Zuna was born January 2, 1893 in Newark. A good athlete in his youth, Frank was renowned for his stamina. That translated into success as a distance runner. Frank trained to be a plumber in Summit, and often ran the 15 miles from his home to plumbing school and back for several years. He described the distance as a “hop, skip and a jump.”

Compared to other runners of his era, Frank had a noticeably muscular build thanks to his vocation. He stood 5’10 and weighed around 150 pounds. Frank ran for the Irish-American Athletic Club, even though he was of Bohemian ancestry. He won his first major race in 1915, the Brockton Fair Marathon, in Massachusetts.

Frank enlisted in the U.S. Army at the start of the Great War. In 1916, he was stationed on the Mexican border as part of the force opposing Pancho Villa. In 1917, he shipped across the Atlantic to France with the 27th Pioneer Division. Frank served as a soldier and also as a cook. He won the AEF cross-country championship and also a marathon from Versailles to Paris.

Upon his return to the U.S. in 1920, Frank entered and won the Trenton to Ft. Dix Marathon and the Brooklyn–Sea Gate Marathon. He was a member of the Whitney Post of the American Legion. Frank entered the 1920 Boston Marathon and finished seventh. Near the end of the race he discarded his shoes and ran in his athletic stockings. Later that year, Frank qualified for the Olympic marathon team, but coach Mike Ryan chose not to enter him, questioning his fitness. Ryan was the record-holder in the Boston Marathon, having won the 1912 race in 2:22.12.

Ryan’s decision looked highly questionable a year later, when Frank—now running for the Paulist Athletic Club


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