A focused survey of three unmatched American long-distance runners.
Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers and Alberto Salazar were trailblazers in popularizing the sport of distance racing in the late 1970s, and journalist and former competitive mile–runner Stracher (Dinner with Dad: How I Found My Way Back to the Family Table, 2007, etc.) expressively reveals the personal lives and professional development of the New England triplet from that pivotal decade. He describes Shorter as a Yale-educated medical-school dropout and self-taught racer who had to outrun thugs in his youth; the former chain-smoking Rodgers and determined Cuban prodigy Salazar, who trained together, also ran to escape their demons. Though the Munich massacre and memories of an abusive childhood marred Shorter’s confidence in running the Summer Olympics marathon in 1972, he still won a gold medal, solidifying his status as the top racer in the world and successfully launching the American running craze. Rodgers overcame the “hyperfocus” of ADHD to claim his fame, while Salazar, the youngest of the three, battled and defeated chronic illnesses to emerge victorious. In addition to historical factoids on the sport of running, anecdotes about the interpersonal rivalries shared by all three and the then-strict rules governing a runner’s compensation, Stracher weaves into the narrative Tommy Leonard and Fred Lebow, two Boston-area athletes instrumental in the formation of the Falmouth Road Race and the New York City Marathon, respectively. With the same passion used to describe its ascent, the author mourns the evaporating allure of the sport and notes the fates of his famed trio, who must now attend to the physical “damage done by racing,” including hip, knee and heart problems.
Essential reading for runners both competitive and casual.