Frank Shorter's 1984 "Olympic Gold" is perhaps too understated for its own good. To the average reader, this may seem like a fairly standard athlete autobiography. For those who remember the times, Frank Shorter's dramatic and surprising marathon victory at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games helped ignite mass interest in the United States in long distance running as a competitive event and as a vehicle for personal fitness. Shorter didn't create the running boom of the 1970's, but he surely helped lead the way.
"Olympic Gold" chronicles Shorter's rise from above-average prep school runner to promising collegiate runner to world class athlete. U.S. athletes had been virtual no-shows in long distance running for decades; Shorter was one of a group of young runners who invested the time and milage to become internationally ranked in the 1970's. Shorter himself, along with Steve Prefontaine, was one of a rare breed who were truly competitive at distances from two miles to the marathon.
Shorter went beyond the racing to push the envelope on obsolete restrictions on amateurism in the United States. Thanks in significant degree to his pioneering advocacy, U.S. runners can now be paid for their appearences at races and can earn money through endorsements. Shorter himself helped pay for his training by marketing a line of clothing specifically adapted to running.
Shorter and his contemporaries are all long since retired from competitive running, but his biography makes for an interest time capsule, full of insights on the making of the running boom of the 1970's. This book is highly recommended to those who lived that era, or may be curious about it.