By Dave Dyer
---- — He’s not exactly back from the dead, but Craig Fram is definitely back from the depths.
The 54-year-old standout masters runner, who has moved from Plaistow to Derry, proved that in no uncertain terms the weekend before last when he won his age group in 1:09:52 and finished 25th at the grueling 7.6-mile Mount Washington Road race.
That time and finish are both the worst ever for Fram, who was the overall winner at Mount Washington in 1997. But considering how low Fram was last year, this may have been his most remarkable performance yet.
Last year was definitely one you wouldn’t want to wish on your worst enemy. Physically, he was plagued all year by a serious hernia injury. He finally had double hernia surgery in November and, when it didn’t prove successful, had the same procedure repeated in December.
If that wasn’t bad enough, and it can’t get much worse for a diehard runner, Fram went through a divorce, struggled when one of his best friends from high school was diagnosed with cancer and then had to deal with some difficult health issues regarding his mother.
“It definitely wasn’t one of my better years,” understated Fram. “Running has always been an outlet for me, but after the surgeries, I had to go eight or nine weeks without any exercising at all. I couldn’t even ride a bike or swim, which you (runners) can usually do when you’re injured.”
Fram started the long road back in late January. It wasn’t easy.
“My first run, I went only three miles and I thought I was going to have to walk after two and a half,” he said. “I was amazed at how out of shape I had gotten. I’m thinking that last September I had been running for 40 years and now I can’t run three miles.”
But within six weeks, Fram was starting to feel closer to his normal self. He decided to use Mount Washington, which has always been one of his favorite races, as a measuring stick.
“I had four goals and I reached all of them,” said Fram. “I wanted to win my age division, I wanted to break 1:10, I wanted to finish without walking and I wanted to be right around (Bradford’s) Dave Dunham,
“He (Dunham) is so competitive and so consistent. I knew if I could run with him, I’d be doing pretty good.”
In fact, the pair — two of the top masters runners in the country — ran stride for stride for about three miles before Fram pulled away.
By reaching those goals, Fram felt almost better than if he had won the entire race.
“It was one of the most satisfying races I’ve ever had and it was one of the happiest (finishes) I’ve had,” he said. “It was a real high, having come off a year of not being that competitive and not even running that much.
“I’ve always enjoyed Mount Washington and I still do. It’s a huge accomplishment, like a marathon, but the recovery time is quicker. It’s one of my favorite races.”
Fram still doesn’t feel like he’s completely back to where he was as a runner before his hernia problems, but he’s getting there.
“I think in another few weeks, after doing more speed specific work, and with another race under my belt, I’ll be just about as fit as I was before,” he said.
In contrast to previous years, Fram’s goals are fewer. He wants to be competitive in the Grand Prix series, run a couple of local races and perhaps aim for the 5K national championships in October.
Generally, he’s just happy to be back running and competing.
“Last year put things in perspective but it also made me appreciate running more,” he said. “Running has always been good health-wise but it’s also good mentally. It helps you clear your mind and feel a little better about things.”
One thing is for sure. The running community is feeling better about Fram getting back in the loop.
Marvelous master Craig Fram has run some of his best races since turning 40. In 2006, he was top master at Chicago Marathon with a 2:30:56 (his best is 2:22:58 at Boston in 1995) and top master at New Bedford half-marathon in 1:10:43 (his best is 1:06:25) Ran his best 10-mile time at age 40, a 49:58 Has won the masters division at Mount Washington five times, including this year. He set a masters record in 2001 with a 1:04:28 In 2009, won masters national indoor titles in both mile and 3,000 meters and was top-ranked master in country. Owns masters records in at least 15 races.