From the Publisher
"In his lively, informative history, Cameron Stracher traces the boom of running culture in America back to the 1970s when a trio of single-minded athletesFrank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazarcaptured the national spotlight with their intense passion for pounding the road...Stracher writes with a true fan’s contagious enthusiasm."Newsweek/The Daily Beast
“A focused survey of three unmatched American long-distance runners… Essential reading for runners both competitive and casual.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Kings of the Road is about marathon legends. It's about running Fast. It's about Will. It's about the Real. It's about drama of the finest kind.” – Bernd Heinrich, author of Why We Run and Racing the Antelope
“In Kings of the Road, Cameron Stracher recaptures the wonder, energy, and excitement of American road racing from 1972 to 1982. With amazing detail and action, he follows Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar to their greatest victories in an era when they became national sports icons.”Amby Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon winner and Runner's World Editor-at-Large
“Combining a novelist's eye for character and detail with an historian's insight into patterns and connections, Cameron Stracher's Kings of the Road delivers a rollicking, informed account of the rise of the American running movement. Bringing the 1970's alive in all their brokenness, weirdness, and hope, Stracher shows how distance running helped define a generation. Kings of the Road rekindles Baby Boomer memories while introducing younger readers to an overlooked piece of sporting and social history.” – John Brant, author of Duel in the Sun and co-author (with Alberto Salazar) of 14 Minutes
The popularity of distance running today can be traced back to 1972, when Frank Shorter won Olympic gold in the marathon. Stracher (Dinner with Dad) explores these golden years of American running by profiling three greats: Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar. These men dominated the sport, clocking in some of the fastest marathon times in the world. Each of Stracher's chapters focuses on a year and a race, with the now famous Falmouth, MA, Road Race highlighted several times as an example of a quirky event that attracted elites from all over. It was there that the three runners competed against one another a few times. Throughout his narrative, Stracher weaves details of the tensions among runners and discusses the arbitrary limitations imposed by the Amateur Athletic Union, which then prevented runners from obtaining appearance payments or licensing their images for advertising. Even top runners had to work low-paying menial jobs and then head to the track to train for their next race. VERDICT This readable work will appeal to runners interested in their sport's history and to those who enjoy social histories of the 1970s.—Maura Deedy, Weymouth P.L., MA
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.