A Whole New Life

Running Marathons Helps Professor Change Lifestyle

By Amanda Steiner

            Along with skydiving, learning to play an instrument, traveling, and going back to school, running a marathon is a common item on “to-do-before-you-die” lists. For those people who want to train for a marathon, they can find inspiration in Professor Frank Pianki, who can boldly check that off his list. Pianki, a Falls School of Business professor at Anderson University , has been running marathons for four years now, has dropped almost 100 pounds and is currently training for the Boston Marathon in April of 2008.

            After suffering a heart attack and recovering in 2003, Pianki decided to start running marathons and changing his lifestyle. “I realized that reasonable health wasn’t just about vanity,” Pianki noted. “I didn’t diet; I changed what I ate and how I ate. My weight used to yo-yo up and down and I couldn’t figure out the key to weight loss.” After running marathons, however, he found the key: completely changing lifestyles. It wasn’t about stopping himself from eating or depriving himself of good food. It was about eating food that was good for his body and his taste buds.

            “I eat five small meals a day instead of three. I don’t eat refined sugar or flour. I train everyday and get plenty of sleep,” he explained. Pianki’s lifestyle changes were more than just eating better. He wanted to have a healthy, well-balanced life. His kids are grown now and since the heart attack he has wanted to be a role model for them as they are adults. “I want them to know that I balance work, fun and exercise and live a well balanced lifestyle,” he explained.

            Since he’s accomplished his weight loss goal, the Boston Marathon is the new item on his to-do list, and isn’t just any other marathon. A prestigious one that has a history of over 100 years, it is the grandfather of all marathons. “It’s the ultimate marathon,” Pianki said. "It’s in April and you have to qualify before you can enter. I am running a qualifying race on May 26th in Traverse City , MI . If I can run it in under 3:35, then I will be going to Boston in 2008.”

            The goal is reachable, with his last race clocking in at 3:49. “After my last race in Chicago I had no idea how fast I could run,” he said. “After that I decided I wanted to start training for Boston .”

            Larry Maddox, former cross-country coach for Anderson University , is helping Pianki prepare for the race. He taught Pianki about the importance of rest, cross-training, heart rates and a runner’s diet. “Working with Larry has been an important part of my training,” Pianki said. “I didn’t know these things were important until he told me.”

            To train, Pianki runs 50 miles a week, three times a week for eight to 12 miles at a time, with a long run on the weekend at 14 to 20 miles. He cross-trains, cycles, swims six days a week and rests one day a week.

            Sound intense? He’s been doing this for four years. Pianki’s advice to new marathon runners is to start slowly and listen to your body. Rest is an important part of training and if you aren’t making it important you are setting yourself up for injury. Get plenty of sleep and eat every few hours. Follow a good training program and give yourself at least four months to be ready for one.

            “At first, changing my lifestyle felt selfish,” says Pianki. “I had to take time for myself which was hard. It takes real effort and support from your loved ones.”



 Pianki before losing almost 100 pounds running marathons


Frank Pianki running the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon

Frank with wife Kathy and grandson Britton after running a marathon.