Champion runner's troubled path through addiction

- The track at 6th Street and the FDR Drive is Frank Schiro's home away from home. Now 63, Frank is a masters champion in the 200, 400, 4 x 200 relay, 4 x 400 relay and sprint medley, having owned at one time six world records.

But despite all the success on the track, Frank has suffered greatly from a disconnection off of it. Of his 51 years running, almost all have been spent battling alcohol and drug addiction.

So where did this life long battle with addiction begin? Frank begrudgingly refers to his childhood in Chatham, New Jersey, when his 17 year old brother Nicholas, his protector, was killed in a car accident. Frank was only 12.

Whatever the reason, Frank was a user. But still went on to have stellar track career at Chatham High School, setting records and garnering some 25 scholarship offers. Places like Princeton and Cornell wanted him. But Frank didn't want them. Instead of going to college, Frank decided to be a landscaper and do drugs.

Frank's decision had devastating effects. After committing robberies to support his habit Frank spent four months behind bars in 1997. When he got out it was right back to drugs and an overdose. Twice he was given last rites. But Frank battled back. Cleaned himself up and amazingly, became a drug counselor and had 15 years of sobriety.

But according Robert Budsock, president and CEO of Integrity House, the rehab facility in Newark visited by President Obama in November, Frank's leadership was just not enough to keep him running in the right direction.

Frank's story reads like a Hollywood script -- one of triumph and despair. Running taking him to the top, drugs and alcohol sending him crashing down to the bottom.

As for those negative consequences of addiction, Frank suffered the worst this past June. Because of a drug deal gone wrong and an ensuing fight, he was given a four-month sentence in Rikers Island.

Fortunately, right now Frank is out of the pit. But can he stay out? Maybe. With a new understanding. For the time being, though, Frank appears to have found himself. And with his running is headed in the right direction.

As those in recovery say, one day at a time.

Right now, Frank is training other runners, from the elite to beginners. And he's also in training himself for what he hopes will be success at the historic Penn Relays in April, a meet where he has already won two gold medals.

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