Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington


At least one Arlingtonian will line up to run next Monday’s Boston Marathon.

Frank Fumich has not only run competitively on seven continents, he cycles and pursues more obscure physical tests such as stand-up paddling in ocean surf. Much of his celebrated heroic grunting and straining benefits the less fortunate.

“I actually got a Boston qualifying time and a personal record in September 2013, motivated by the bombing and wanting to get in,” he told me. “But because of the popularity last year, it closed out before I could use that time, so I get to use it this year.”

Fumich’s planned appearance stems in part from a remarkable extreme sports feat performed last June.

He and a pal ran from the Pentagon’s 9/11 Memorial, in stages, 450 miles to Beantown, the last 26 miles of which traced the marathon route. Backed by a traveling medical support and supplies vehicle, they raised $81,000 in donations from followers to benefit a victim of the 2013 bombing that, sadly, will long be associated with the race that began in 1897.

The man is “amazing, a normal person who does extraordinary things,” I was told by Rick Schumann, president of the Better Sports Club of Arlington, at whose banquet Fumich spoke last month. “He has run endurance races in the Sahara Desert, Death Valley and Antarctica, yet he noted he is not particularly athletic and did not start running until he was 30.” Every two years, he enters “Quintuple Ironman” competitions that string together a nonstop a 12-mile swim, a 560-mile bike race and a 131-mile run.

Fumich, now 47, pays the bills as president of Express Catering. This most unofficial of Arlington sports phenoms grew up near Ashlawn Elementary School (which his twins, who live in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood, will soon attend) before graduating from St. Ann Catholic School and O’Connell High School.

He runs regularly on the W & OD bike trail when he’s not traveling to one of the 25 states and seven continents in which he has competed in ultra-marathons. On June 16, Fumich will enter the daunting Race Across America, a 3,000-mile cycling race from Oceanside, Calif, to Annapolis, Md., that must be completed in 12 days. He’s competing to raise funds for the 24/7 care needed by fellow University of West Virginia alum Ryan Diviney, who was beaten into a vegetative state.

Fumich is accustomed to thank-you’s from “random people” who hear of his activities. But he also bonded with families of the Boston victims, sharing medals and charity promotions. “Since I’ve taken the step toward helping people while I’m doing these things, it seems like I won’t want to stop,” he said in an email. “This new direction makes something that usually an admittedly selfish pursuit, seem much more worthy the time and effort.

He plans to keep up these highly disciplined stunts “probably until I can’t anymore. I always say as soon as I cross everything off my list, but then I do one thing, and learn of two more I want to do…so I’m not making great progress on that `list’ even though I’m doing a lot.”

Fumich’s talk to the Sports Club was about “searching for and pushing through your limits,” he said. “Life is too short to wait, give back, and never ever quit.”

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My neighbor and my neighborhood park have been tapped for Arlington’s Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award.

Mary McLean, an educator associated with Tuckahoe Park for more than two decades, will be honored at an April 21 County Board meeting for her years of coordinating volunteers to accomplish invasive removal to keep nature’s treasures orderly. She plans to thank folks from around the region “who share the belief that public service benefits both the parks and ourselves,” she says.

Past winners since the Thomas Award was created in 2005 (Thomas is honored on a trailside bench at the entrance to Bluemont Park) worked without pay to improve Shirlington Dog Park, Long Branch Park, Gulf Branch Nature Center and the garden at Walter Reed Community Center.