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Kings of the Road: How Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar Made Running Go Boom

Kings of the Road: How Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar Made Running Go Boom

2.6 3
by Cameron Stracher

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Winner of the 2015 Armory Foundation Book Award from the Track & Field Writers of America

For fans of The Perfect Mile and Born to Run, a riveting, three-pronged narrative about the golden era of running in America—the 1970s—as seen through running greats, Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar

It was 1978


Winner of the 2015 Armory Foundation Book Award from the Track & Field Writers of America

For fans of The Perfect Mile and Born to Run, a riveting, three-pronged narrative about the golden era of running in America—the 1970s—as seen through running greats, Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar

It was 1978. Jimmy Carter was President; gas prices were soaring; and Americans were hunkering down to weather the economic crisis. But in bookstores Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running was a bestseller. Frank Shorter’s gold medal in the 1972 Olympic marathon had put distance running in the mind of a public enamored of baseball and football. Suddenly, the odd activity of "jogging" became "running," and America was in love.

That summer, a junior from the University of Oregon named Alberto Salazar went head to head with Olympic champion Frank Shorter and Boston Marathon champion Bill Rodgers at the Falmouth Road Race, losing in the last mile to Rodgers's record-setting 32:21, nearly dying in the process, and setting the stage for a great rivalry. In Shorter, Rodgers, and Salazar, running had its conflict and drama like boxing had Ali and Foreman, like basketball had Russell and Chamberlain. Each man built on what the other achieved, and each pushed the other to succeed. Their successes, in turn, fueled a nation of coach potatoes to put down the remote and lace up their sneakers.

Kings of the Road tells the story of running during that golden period from 1972 to 1981 when Shorter, Rodgers, and Salazar captured the imagination of the American public as they passed their figurative baton from one to the other. These three men were American running during those years, while the sport enjoyed a popularity never equaled. As America now experiences a similar running boom, Kings of the Road is a stirring, inspiring narrative of three men pushing themselves toward greatness and taking their country along for the ride.

Editorial Reviews

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 athletes -- Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar -- captured 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

Library Journal
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
Kirkus Reviews
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.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Cameron Stracher is a graduate of Harvard Law School and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is the author of The Laws of Return, Double Billing, and Dinner with Dad, as well as the YA dystopian thriller, The Water Wars. In addition to his books, Cameron is a media lawyer who has written for the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the American Lawyer, where he is a contributing editor, and many other publications. He lives in Westport, Connecticut, with his wife and two children and is a dedicated runner.

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Kings of the Road: How Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar Made Running Go Boom 2.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There aren't a lot of books about running that I haven't read. This book reads like an undergraduate literature student's thesis paper. Too often the author's tangents disrupt the story he's trying to tell, the race depictions are uninspired, and several of the facts are questionable. For being considered a competitive runner, the book comes off as someone who just discovered running and completed a crash course on the sport by reading all the popular running books and cutting and pasting their stories into his own. Not to mention he treats Pre and Dick Beardsley as tedious footnotes. If you've never read a book about running before, go for it, you'll love this book. If you've already read several, keep your expectations low. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am the frist one to say something about this book. Well i didnt read it but i think its ok by the way they talk about the book. But hey dont ask me am just thirteen.0 0 ( i just give this book a star because i cant leve the rate post thing. Any ways why do we have to rate it if we dont want to this is a free country if i dont want to rate am not gonna. If i dont want to eat my vegs i am not going to eat if even do my mom going to make me well thats diffrent because i live in her house so i guess i have to do it any way. But that have nothing to do with this. Any way i got home work to do. I will talk to you guys and girls later. Peace out.