Friends reminisce following death of Louisville running pioneer

Longtime miniMarathon participant hit by car and killed

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The name of a pedestrian who died after he was hit by a vehicle on Bardstown Road has been released.

Wednesday, the Jefferson County Coroner's Officer said the man was 82-year-old Frank Robinson.

Robinson's name is well known in the Louisville running community. Friends said he was out for a run Tuesday night which, unfortunately, became the
way he accidentally said goodbye to the world and the sport he cherished.

"It's sad," Swag Hartel said of Robinson's death, "It's not a good way to go, but I guess Frank went, doing something he really loved."

[RELATED: Longtime miniMarathon participant hit by car and killed]

Hartel, a successful businessman and former professional runner said of Robinson, "Frank was just a pioneer, he was running before it was ever popular." 

Hartel remembered when he first sold Robinson shoes in the 1970s. He said he was quite a character.

"He told me he first started running in jeans and a white t-shirt," Hartel said.

Part of the miniMarathon Elite Club, Robinson ran in the very first miniMarathon and didn't stop for 38 years straight. Only sickness blew his streak in 2011.

Robinson's friend and fellow runner Rick Waddle said, "He was one of the better runners in the country back then and that was probably in the late 1980s."

From Florida to California, Louisvillians ran into Robinson everywhere. 

Waddle said, "He ran the Boston Marathon which is the king daddy of the marathons."

Waddle said Robinson was successful even though he didn't get started in the sport until his 30s. He said at age 61, Robinson ran a three-hour and five-minute marathon, which was one of the best times in the country for his age group. 

But Waddle said runners really remember is, "You could be around him for five minutes and you just fell in love with the guy."

Hartel said, "He was really a lovely bloke, just very encouraging and friendly to everybody and he always encouraging the beginning runners."   

At Robinson's 30th miniMarathon, WAVE 3 News got a glimpse at his humor. As he crossed the finished line he shared his secret for endurance, "Viagra," he laughed.

Short in stature, Robinson was routinely asked if he was a jockey, so at Kentucky Derby parties he would dress the part in full silks. Friends said he loved to dance and celebrate the holidays with his wife Ruby, his children and his running family.

Waddle said, "You could be having a bad day and you come around Frank and he turned it around in a heartbeat."

The Kentucky Derby Festival released a statement following Robinson that read in part, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Frank Robinson."

Copyright 2015 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.