American Frank Shorter (see Exercises 8.12) has been labeled “the man who invented the marathon,” a title he vigorously denies. His victory in the 1972 Munich Olympic Marathon and his second place in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Marathon, both of which were screened live on American television, are often cited as important factors behind the subsequent running explosion in the United States (Benyo, 1983).
I include Shorter in this post not because he used any spectacular training methods but rather to make three important points.
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First, Shorter was not a champion athlete at school or even for most of his university career. This fact becomes important when we consider whether young athletes should be encouraged to strive for international success at young ages (see post 17).
Shorter studied law at Yale, a university with no athletic scholarship program and with only a volunteer track team. Conflicting interests in skiing, studying, and singing in the choir kept Shorter from any intensive training during his first 3
Only in his senior year, when his coach Bob Giegengack suggested Shorter could become the world’s best marathoner, did he start to train seriously, winning the American Collegiate 6-mile title and achieving second place in the 3-mile event (Shorter & Bloom, 1984).
After graduation, Shorter’s performances on the track improved progressively and his interest in the marathon was kindled. Besides his Olympic victories, Shorter’s outstanding marathon performances included his string of four consecutive victories between 1971 and 1974 in the Fukuoka Marathon, including the third-fastest-ever marathon in the 1972 race.