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When he couldn't get into Western States, the prestigious 100-mile trail race in California, Bob Frawley decided it was time to create his own ultramarathon.

Just like Frawley, though, the event wasn't entirely a selfish enterprise. He wanted the passion project to help inner-city kids, too.

Born was the FANS Ultra Race in the metro that, 35 years on, has inspired some of the best ultramarathoners on the planet while helping hundreds of young people pursue their academic dreams.

Inspiration is among the sentiments this week as members of the tight FANS running community mourn the unexpected death of Frawley, 67. He died while running on a trail "he ran a hundred times," according to a Facebook post by family members. He lived in Minneapolis and was a regular on the Chain of Lakes loops. (His family could not be reached for comment). Services for Frawley are July 20 at St. Joan of Arc Church in Minneapolis.

Among the outpouring on social media for Frawley and his family are poignant reminders of his servant heart and mentorship while director of the Brian Coyle Community Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and the Waite House in the Phillips neighborhood. Both are extensions of the outreach of the nonprofit Pillsbury United Communities, which FANS races support. FANS stands for "Furthering Achievement through a Network of Support."

"He was a gifted runner, as well as a race director," said Bruce Brothers, a former journalist and running columnist at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "All his energies were put into doing something for the community."

Brothers also was a racer at FANS, which began as a 24-hour race in 1990 and, as it grew, added 12-hour and six-hour events. While having started at Lake Harriet, FANS moved to different locations such as Lake Nokomis and Fort Snelling State Park. Frawley was a fixture as a participant, according to friends, even after he stepped aside as director. This year's event happened June 1, with loops around Normandale Lake in Bloomington. Frawley ran the 12-hour race, accumulating 48.17 miles. He also was a regular at the 50-mile Voyageur Trail Ultra (Carlton to Duluth and back), with plans to run his 30th on July 27.

Sue Olsen of Pine River and Danny Ripka of Minneapolis were with Frawley in early June, just like so many Junes before. Pre-race dinners and post-race breakfasts were tradition. Both have run — and won — multiple 24-hour races. Ripka's last victory was in 2004 (127 miles). Olsen ran 130.8 miles in 1994, a record that stood for 22 years.

"What a wonderful person," said Olsen. "I'm still in shock."

"Bob was just a great soul," Ripka said.

The runner who eclipsed Olsen's big mark is Courtney Dauwalter, who broke it in 2016 with 135.7 miles. Today, Dauwalter, who grew up in Hopkins and now lives in Colorado, is one of the top ultramarathoners in the world and dominated the 2023 Western States.

Ultrarunner Harvey Lewis, of Cincinnati, also is a FANS alum and paid tribute to Frawley on Facebook: "He was an absolute gem of a human being. There is a very good chance I would never have had the introduction to ultras which has influenced so many areas of my life from teaching to meeting my wife, were it not for Bob."

Lewis last ran FANS in 2022. Last year, he won the Big Backyard Ultra, the world championship of "backyard ultras." Similar to FANS, a backyard ultra has no set length. In Tennessee, runners completed a 4.167-mile loop on the hour, hourly, until only one person remained. That was Lewis, who completed 108 loops — or about 450 miles — over four and a half days at the race, aka Big's.

Olsen, who jumped in on FANS in its second year, said Frawley and his idea were ahead of their time. "Back when it started, you couldn't find many 24-hour races," she said.

Paul and Pat Sackett, who took over FANS in 2003 and ran it until 2018, mourned their friend too. Paul said the event built a reputation that expanded, and drew, internationally. About half the participants were from out of town.

"Many 'famous' people in the ultra-running community ran FANS," he said in an email. "It is a flat, fast course, and served as a good place to try one's first ultra, and as a place to accumulate a high mileage total."

Current co-race director David Shannon now relishes what's he's learned about Frawley's "brainchild," including time on-trail together last year when they both competed in the Lean Horse Ultra in the Black Hills. Shannon ran the 100-mile, Frawley the 50, and they overlapped.

"I didn't realize how special that moment would be," Shannon said. "Bob was running strong."

Shannon said FANS has momentum for its 36th year. Participation was up this year, and so were sponsorships. That means more money funneled into the scholarships for young people — part of Frawley's mission.

"He affected a lot of people inside and outside of running," Shannon said.