Since he was very young, limits were placed on Frankie Anzaldi, a 16-year-old Rocky Point High School student. When he was in kindergarten, doctors said Anzaldi would never be able to tie his own shoes, but each time he was told he couldn’t do something he has consistently proved the doubters wrong, all despite his epilepsy and seizures.
Anzaldi has no limits, and he’s ambitious — always looking for the next goal to tackle. With that attitude, he has become an accomplished trombone player and on this past St. Patrick’s Day March 17 he participated in the New York City Half Marathon representing Athletes Without Limits, an organization supporting athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Frankie’s journey to the NYC Half Marathon began simple enough, with a visit to the Stony Brook men’s soccer team after he was named its honorary captain three years ago. It was his interactions with the team in the gym, working out with them, that helped spur his decision to start running.
“I never thought it would be running,”
Anzaldi’s mother Michelle said. “Out of the blue he said he wanted to go running — so we brought him to the track.”
The 16-year-old’s mother said when they first brought him to the track in July 2016, her son could barely run a mile. But the persistent teenager kept at it, and later decided he wanted to run a race.
“We found a fun race, a 1K. He did the race and he loved it,” his mother said.
For that race, Anzaldi ran for the Rolling Thunder Special Needs Track Team. Three months later, he became a member of the team and represented it at the Suffolk County Half Marathon.
The co-founder of Athletes Without Limits, Barry Holman, happened to be at the race and met the Anzaldi family. The teenager saw one of the organization’s slogan of “No limits” and he adopted it as his own and has since lived by it. Many of his posts on Instagram, a social media platform, feature the hashtag, #nolimits.
Frank Anzaldi, the runner’s father, marveled at the progression his son has made in a short amount of time.
“He just worked at it — went from barely running one mile to thirteen miles,” Anzaldi’s father said.
The NYC Half Marathon was his fifth half marathon in three years, and despite how long he’s been at it, Anzaldi is still out on the track every week training.
“Training was really intense — he was running close to 40 miles a week,” he said.
In training for his first NYC Half Marathon, Anzaldi received virtual coaching from the Badger Track Club, a club based in Madison, Wisconsin, whose main focus is to teach, train and educate athletes in track and field, cross country and road racing.
“He’s was being virtually coached by Scott Brinen; he’s worked with special needs athletes before,” his father said. “I was put in touch with them through Athletes Without Limits.”
The young man told them he wanted to run another half marathon and his improve his run time, and soon the club helped Anzaldi with a workout plan which included speed and distance training as well as working out in the gym. According to young Anzaldi, it got him in the best shape he’s ever been.
At the marathon, Anzaldi was joined by his longtime trombone tutor and friend, Michel Nadeau, who is a music teacher in the Commack School District, who just so happened to be a runner himself.
Nadeau met him five years ago when the Anzaldis were looking for a trombone tutor for their son. The family called Nadeau a godsend, as he helped the teenager learn how to play the trombone by modifying music notes so he could read them. Nadeau taught their son how to read music even before he could read a book.
“Two years ago, Frankie started running and [his parents] didn’t know I was a runner as well, so it was kind of cool,” Nadeau said.
Because of Anzaldi, Nadeau was motivated to run in the Suffolk Half Marathon two years ago and ran it again with him this past November. Nadeau also trained with Anzaldi for his fifth half marathon. Training sessions consisted of running for eight miles, three times a week, according to the music teacher.
“Frankie doesn’t say no to anything, and he’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve met in my life,” Nadeau said. “It’s been really fun working and running with someone that has no quit in them.”
A little more than a month before the race, Anzaldi’s father received a call from Athletes Without Limits asking if the 16-year-old could represent the national team at the marathon. The teenager said absolutely, and he was excited for the race to run past NYU Hospital where his doctors and surgeons work. He would also be running past the windows of other patients he knew personally and was excited to show them what he has accomplished.
With five half marathons under his belt, the freshman in high school has already expressed his desire to do more. One of his goals is to represent the United States in an international competition.
A first chair trombone player in middle school last year and a member of the high school marching band, Anzaldi also has dreams of being a trombone player in the Disney Marching Band. According to his mother, that is the ultimate job he wants in life.
“It started from the get-go that limits were placed on him, and every time someone says he can’t do something, he proves them wrong,” the teenager’s mother said.
Anzaldi’s father agreed, saying even if someone has a disability, you shouldn’t limit them. When someone believes in them great things can happen.
“They said he was never going to be able to tie his shoes and now he is tying them and running marathons,” he said.