83-year-old distance runner from Quad Cities still running strong

Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 11:43 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - 83-year-old Frank Bay wasn’t always a runner.

“Didn’t run in school, it was a small school in Central Nebraska, there wasn’t any track program,” said Bay.

It wasn’t until age 43 when Frank started running while working in Europe for John Deere.

“I was riding up and down hills on a bicycle because bicycling was my first sport and it was quite mountainous switchbacks very wet and I was afraid I was gonna run off the road into the trees and down over the hill so I switched to running,” said Bay.

A few years later Frank returned to the Quad Cities and joined the Corn Belt running club.

“I liked running for the social aspect of it, running is a very social sport,” said Bay.

When Frank was 55 his son convinced him to run a Marathon. But before running a marathon, Frank wanted to first test himself at the Bix

“The Bix was the race that I said ok if I do a good Bix then I’ll start training for a marathon,” said Bay.

Frank ran the Portland Marathon, where he qualified for the Boston Marathon.

“I got much faster, Marathon training does a lot to make you faster,” said Bay.

Frank started winning races and became a competitive runner competing in events all across the country.

“Boston was one of them, New York was my last one, I ran that in 2011 when I was 71 and placed 9th in the age group there,” said Bay.

This summer, Frank ran his 30th Bix and he did so with his son and grandson running the race as well.

“My grandson runs for Lewis and Clarke College in Portland and he ran 42 minutes in the Bix here,” said Bay.

For the 3rd year in a row, Frank was the fastest runner 80 or older to finish the Bix. Two years ago, he set the course record for the age group finishing the Bix in 1 hour, 7 minutes and 21 seconds.

“I’ve been able to win my age group easily because most people have quit,” said Bay.

After decades of running remarkably fast, Frank is finally starting to slow down

“Now I don’t know how much longer I can last, I would like to do the 50th year of the Bix, but I’m not sure,” said Bay. “This one was pretty hard, I ran a half marathon in the spring which hurt me a lot.”

Two years ago, while running the Quad Cities marathon, Frank fainted

“I knew I was having trouble running I was at mile 11 in the half marathon and doing ok but not great because I was getting very tired and suddenly I woke up and they were loading me onto an ambulance,” said Bay.

Frank has a first-degree heart block.

“Most people wouldn’t even know they had it if they weren’t pushing themselves to the maximum heart rate and when you get to the maximum heart rate the block makes the ventricles beat a little bit later than they should and they just don’t have time to recover,” said Bay.

It hasn’t stopped Frank from doing what he loves

“The cardiologist encourages me to continue to run, I monitor my watch pretty carefully for my heart rate,” said Bay.

As long as his heart is still beating, Frank wants to continue the passion that changed his life.

“I hope I can last another year or two and maybe run 5k’s for quite some time,” said Bay. “At the beginning I ran for my health. A doctor said you really should have an exercise program he says it probably won’t make you live longer, but you’ll probably have better quality of life, well I suspect the doctor was right, I think it has made the quality of my life better.”