Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review (and Running Book Library Update)

I just updated my long-neglected Running Book Library here on the blog. I'm currently sitting at 37 running-themed books, broken into two categories: training books and biography/autobiographies/novels.

I recently vacationed in Florida, and I always try to bring a new book with me to read on the plane (and while waiting at the airport, possibly on the beach, etc.) I searched on Amazon and decided to pick up Frank Shorter's book, My Marathon — Reflections on a Gold Medal Life, published by Rodale Books in 2016. As of this post, it's listed at just under $15 US on Amazon. Heck of a deal, IMO.

Any serious and/or long-time runner (especially if you're old, like me) is no stranger to Frank Shorter. He won the Olympic Marathon in Munich, Germany in 1972. He also won the Silver Medal in the 1976 Montreal Olympics (read the account in the book to find out why he should have won the Gold), and he was a four-time winner of the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan. He's known as the Father of the Running Boom. His training mileage and intensity are legendary. He was a close friend & training partner to Steve Prefontaine, and was the last person to see him alive the night he tragically died.  

All of these topics, and more, are covered in good detail in the book. All very interesting and compelling stories. What was revelatory for me (even though it was already public knowledge) was the abusive childhood he endured. His father—a well-respected doctor in a small New York town—was a secret monster, who frequently beat his children (and worse). Frank goes into some depth (while not being explicit) about the fear that haunted him for decades, even up to his father's death in 2008. He claims that the pain he endured from his father's beatings made him a tougher runner. As sad as that is, I believe it.

Not only was Shorter the Father of the Running Boom, he also spearheaded the effort to bring about fair compensation to U.S. athletes, much like athletes from European & other nations were compensated. Prior to his efforts (and those of other fellow athletes, Steve Prefontaine included), American athletes could NOT be paid or compensated if they desired to remain amateur status, which was required to compete in the Olympic Games.

He was also instrumental in bringing doping issues to the forefront. From 2000 to 2003, Shorter was the chairman of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, a body that he helped to establish.

But, apart from all this, he really hasn't done much with his life ;-)

Kidding aside, this was a compelling book, and I highly recommend it. I started reading it during my lunch breaks prior to our vacation, and I nearly couldn't stop to save enough for the trip!

My next read will be Bill Rodgers book, Marathon Man, published in 2013. I'll review it as soon as I finish it.

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