Frank Shorter won two Olympic marathon medals –– a gold in 1972 at Munich and a silver at Montreal in 1976 –– and remains renowned as one of America’s top distance runners of all time.
The Yale University graduate first moved to Boulder in 1970 to train. “CU was the only place in the country where there was an indoor track above 5,000 feet,” he said at his home northwest of Boulder. “When we first got here, my wife and I were living in Mary Estill Buchanan’s basement. She became Colorado Secretary of State, but I was grading papers for her husband and babysitting her kids. Right then, I felt like this was the place.”
Shorter went back and forth from Boulder to Florida, where he attended the University of Florida Law School, until 1974 when he became a full-time Coloradan.
As the co-founder and public face of the Bolder Boulder 10K race, he helped touch thousands of Coloradans. He also has been a successful businessman as a founder and operator of fitness-oriented companies, a part-time television commentator at running events, a writer, and a pioneer in sports’ anti-doping movement — even serving as the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s chairman.
Shorter and track and field’s cognoscenti all contend that he might own two marathon gold medals, not one, were it not for the East Germans’ alleged reliance on steroids and other banned performance-enhancing substances. (The ’76 marathon gold medalist was East German Waldemar Ciepinski.)
Shorter says that if he ends up with a second gold medal as part of a complete eradication of implicated East Germans’ Olympic finishes, he would accept it, but that he never has — and never will — seek an individual handling of his grievance. That’s because he doesn’t want anyone to reach the mistaken conclusion that self-interest motivates his passion for the anti-doping cause — a cause in which track and field has suffered considerable scarring, but is well in front of the pack in developing rigorous testing and enforcement standards.
Shorter didn’t need “shortcuts” to success.
Raised in Middletown, N.Y., he was the NCAA 10,000-meter champion for Yale in 1969, and he would remain in the forefront of the American running scene for… well, ever since. He blossomed after his Yale graduation, winning 24 national-meet titles in cross-country and track, at distances from 10,000 meters up to the marathon.
To a generation of track and field fans, he and his close friend, Steve Prefontaine, were the charismatic superstars of distance running.
At the tragedy-scarred Munich Games, Shorter won the marathon by more than two minutes, becoming the third American Olympic champion at the distance — but the first in 64 years! Until then, he wasn’t even known as a marathoner. “I was a freak, a distance runner who could keep running,” he says. He also was the Sullivan Award winner as the nation’s top amateur athlete in 1972.
Prefontaine’s 1975 death in an auto accident, minutes after he dropped off the visiting Shorter at fellow runner Kenny Moore’s home in Eugene, Oregon, left Shorter as running’s major standard-bearer — and he carried on with distinction.
A good athlete always mentally replays a competition over and over, even in victory, to see what might be done to improve the performance the next time.