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10K runner beats odds

Chapter 1: Nov. 1, 1981 (just after midnight on Halloween night). Dunedin police officer Mark Franzman, 23, is directing traffic on U.S. 19 in front of the Brown Derby Restaurant while other officers work a fatal accident. A speeding drunken driver with a suspended license and costumed as a beer can slams into Mark.

The driver is sentenced to six days in jail and a $250 fine. His license is suspended for three additional months. Doctors tell Mark he probably will never walk again. (My skin crawls every time I tell that story.)

Chapter 2: July 4, 1992. Mark, 33, now an investigator for the major-crimes squad of the St. Petersburg Police Department, participates in the Kiwanis Mease Midnight Run on Dunedin Causeway. Accompanied by seven other police officers, he does the 3,000-meter (1.86-mile) event in 25 minutes. "Maybe next year I'll do the 10K," he says.

Chapter 3: July 4, 1993. Mark, again accompanied by several police officers as well as hundreds of other supporters, will try to do the 10,000-meter (6.2-mile) Midnight Run in an hour and 20 minutes.

"In my mind, I know how I'm going to feel," Mark said recently. Two weeks ago he did a 5-mile training run near his Palm Harbor home, and his muscles tightened up so severely he couldn't go to work the next day. He spent the day with his legs elevated and covered with ice packs.

"Luckily, I have Monday off" this year, he said, so he'll have two days to heal. The Midnight Run starts at 12:01 a.m. July 4 (a Sunday) and Monday is the legal holiday.

For the past year he has been going to the St. John Neuromuscular Pain Relief Institute in Largo several times a week for deep tissue massage. His therapist, Susan Juczak, said she concentrates on Mark's legs and back, using a technique that alleviates acute chronic pain.

Susan hopes to be at the Midnight Run to give Mark physical as well as moral support.

What makes Mark run? "It's just another goal I've set," he said. "Maybe I can be an inspiration to others to overcome obstacles," whether physical or mental or some kind of dependency. "They can see how far I've come. Maybe it will be a boost for them, a first step."

Mark again will be wearing race No. 1.

You're invited to join him. All of the run's proceeds are used by the sponsoring Dunedin and Countryside Kiwanis clubs for community-betterment projects, ranging from scholarships and drug-free school programs to Christmas food baskets and a police bike safety program.

The 3K and 10K runs start at the Causeway Plaza shopping center on Alt. U.S. 19 (Bayshore Boulevard) and Curlew Road in Dunedin. The causeway bridges and especially unlighted Honeymoon Island State Park will be aglow with more than 700 luminaries.

Last year's event attracted 1,070 participants. Kiwanians are hoping for 1,200 to 1,500 this year. Registration forms are available at sporting goods stores and other area locations. Mail registration ends June 25. In-person registration at the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce runs through June 29.

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