My Marathon: Reflections on a Gold Medal Life is a revealing memoir by Frank Shorter, the father of American distance running. After winning the 1969 NCAA title in the 10,000 meters during his senior year at Yale, Shorter went on to win a staggering 24 national titles on track, road, and cross-country courses, but it was in the marathon that Shorter achieved his greatest fame and recognition. At the 1972 Munich Games, Shorter won the Olympic marathon finishing more than 2 minutes ahead of the second-place finisher. Four years later, he finished a controversial second in the marathon at the Olympic Games in Montreal. The controversy, still unresolved to this day, revolved around the East German “winner” being a possible drug cheat. Shorter later founded the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Written with noted sportswriter John Brant, My Marathon details these inspiring events, as well as the physical and emotional abuse Shorter suffered as a child. This inspiring memoir is a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit and the transformative power of sports.
#8220;All American marathoners owe Frank Shorter a debt of gratitude for everything he has done to promote and advance our sport. As a fellow Olympian, I am proud to carry on the tradition of excellence Frank established with his outstanding performances at the Munich and Montreal games. My Marathon is a remarkable book because it not only recounts Frank’s many accomplishments on the track and the road, but also because it reveals the enormous sacrifices and dedication it takes to compete at an elite level. This book, like its author, is an inspiration.”
— Meb Keflezighi, 4-time U.S. Olympian
“Frank Shorter is the most uncommon of athletes. His riveting, inspiring and blindingly honest story details the work ethic, discipline and torment that formed his character and made him a champion. It may have taken more courage to write this book than it did to become the world's best marathon runner—perhaps the best ever.”
— George A. Hirsch, chairman, New York Road Runners, co-founder, New York City Marathon, and former worldwide publisher of Runner’s World magazine
“Frank Shorter is America’s first runner, not just for his pivotal win in the 1972 Olympic Marathon, but also for the intellect and candor he has brought to each of his missions. Whether fighting ‘shamateurism,’ athlete doping, or terrorist strikes, Shorter acts with razor-sharp clarity. My Marathon gives us previously unavailable insight into the man, including the rampant abuse in his family, and the running boom he towered over.”
— Amby Burfoot, editor-at-large, Runner’s World magazine & 1968 Boston Marathon champion
“This is a courageous book by a splendid human being whose life has personified the Japanese proverb: Fall seven times, get up eight. From rock bottom to Olympic champion, Frank Shorter has shown that the human spirit is indomitable. Cheated out of a second Olympic gold medal, Frank has waged a continuous campaign—publicly and privately—to ensure that other athletes are not similarly victimized. All readers will learn a lot about Frank and, in the process, learn something about themselves.”
— Richard W. Pound, former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency
“My Marathon is a heartfelt, illuminating and inspiring memoir that goes far beyond the 26.2 miles endured by most marathoners and travels over roads few would have had the strength to survive. Not only did Frank Shorter survive, he become both an Olympic champion and a champion for running from its infancy through the enormous growth and popularity our sport enjoys today. Instead of running away from the many challenges he has faced, Frank has run head on into advocating for what is right in sport and in life.”
— Joan Benoit Samuelson, 1984 Olympic marathon champion
FRANK SHORTER is the winner of 24 national championships and the 1972 Olympic marathon. A frequent contributor to nationally televised broadcasts of distance running events and an advocate for children's rights, Shorter was elected to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1984. He lives in Boulder, CO.ZusammenfassungMy Marathon: Reflections on a Gold Medal Life
JOHN BRANT is a freelance sportswriter whose work has been anthologized in The Best American Sports Writing seven different times. A frequent contributor to Runner's World magazine and the author or coauthor of three previous books on running, he lives in Portland, OR.
is a revealing memoir by Frank Shorter, the father of American distance running. After winning the 1969 NCAA title in the 10,000 meters during his senior year at Yale, Shorter went on to win a staggering 24 national titles on track, road, and cross-country courses, but it was in the marathon that Shorter achieved his greatest fame and recognition.
At the 1972 Munich Games, Shorter won the Olympic marathon finishing more than 2 minutes ahead of the second-place finisher. Four years later, he finished a controversial second in the marathon at the Olympic Games in Montreal. The controversy, still unresolved to this day, revolved around the East German “winner” being a possible drug cheat. Shorter later founded the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Written with noted sportswriter John Brant, My Marathon
details these inspiring events, as well as the physical and emotional abuse Shorter suffered as a child.
This inspiring memoir is a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit and the transformative power of sports.Leseprobe
Felix the Cat
In the spring of 2015, my younger brother Chris died. He was only 61 and had a masters in math and computer science, a very bright man. Of the 10 surviving children in our profoundly dysfunctional family, I looked most like my father--the same nose, the same thick mop of hair--and Chris, and possibly Nanette, my sister, resembled him most in terms of personality. Not the cruelty, of course, or the psychotic duplicity, but they shared a similar strain of stubbornness and combativeness. Chris fought back harder than the rest of us against our father's attacks and thus absorbed more punishment.
The beatings would go on for a long time with Chris. For the rest of us, not so long in real time, although in terms of psychic damage, the violence never ended. The beatings were relatively brief because my father would get tired. Pounding on a child was hard physical work. It would turn anaerobic in a hurry. He would curse and snort and sweat. We would be watching from the doorway of the victim's bedroom. For me, watching was worse than getting hit myself. Our father knew he had an audience. There was a strong element of theater to his sadistic performances.
They began downstairs in the kitchen late at night, after my father came home from rounds at the hospital, or after he had sat up with a woman in labor or cleaned and dressed the knife wound of a railroad worker injured in a barroom fight. After he had finished playing his role of savior of our town, he would come home, and the mask would drop away. Or maybe he just exchanged one mask for another. Maybe he never stopped playacting, even inside his own house. Even, perhaps, inside his own head.
Upstairs in our bedrooms, we would hear him interrogating our mother. By the timbre and volume of his voice, we could tell whether he'd been drinking--advantages and disadvantages, either way. He would grill her, asking about the day around the house with the kids. He wasn't trying to catch up on the news or reconnect with his family. He was fishing for a transgression, intent on uncovering a slight misstep that he'd conflate into a pretext for storming up the stairs, belt in hand, calling out the name of the night's victim. To justify his violence, my father needed to gin up a motive.
He didn't attack Chris more often than the rest of us, but my little brother's beatings stand out in my memory. Chris would thrash and flail. He would hold out a long time before he started to cry.
And now Chris was dying, from the complications of colon cancer. He had battled hard for several years, the familiar grinding cancer campaign. You pretend it will never happen to you, but it happens (it happened to me a few years ago, a pimple on the corner of my mouth blooming into a squamous skin cancer that required major reconstructive surgery). Chris's kidneys were shutting down, which messed up his blood-clotting mechanism, which meant that he was suffering internal hemorrhaging; bleeding to death inside his body. Now he was in the ICU at a hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and there wasn't much time. A few of his siblings had gathered--Ruth and Barbara and Mary and myself.
As we stood vigil, my sisters and I got to talking. We had rarely talked when we were kids, for the same reason that resistance fighters in Nazi- occupied countries avoided speaking to one another. Under torture, we didn't want to divulge information that would expose our comrades. That frightened silence basically continued into adulthood. We had no good times to remember, so we tried not to remember at all. But now we were aging; now our brother was dying. Buried crimes came to light. Splinters flew from our lifelong family train wreck.
My sister revealed that Sam Jr., our severely disturbed oldest brother, had sexually molested Chris when he was little, a behavior Sam had learned from our father, who had sexually molested my sisters when they were young. I remembered the time Sam Jr. threw a hatchet at me; the blade quivered in the wall above my bed. We remembered Chris getting hammered because he was stubborn, because he wouldn't back down to our father. No, my sisters and I agreed, there wasn't much good for the Shorter family to remember.
My father, Samuel Shorter, MD, known to his devoted patients as Dr. Sam, lived an evil secret life in which he controlled his family through terror and out-of-control violence. It was so bad that I repressed most of his abuse and haven't been able to lash it together into a coherent narrative. Instead, shards of my childhood surface spontaneously, like icebergs bobbing in a calm sea. Dr. Sam: The only time he spent around us was to afflict us. The exceptions were so rare that they almost shine. I recall him playing with us in a swimming pool on one of our summer family trips. I remember him smiling on a chairlift in the Catskills or the Rockies--my father loved to ski.
My dominant image, however, even more indelible than the beatings, was his psychological abuse. The man was a master sadist, a dark genius. He could have taught the Gestapo or Stasi a trick or two. His verbal stilettos hurt worse than an actual truncheon.
I see him behind the wheel of our Buick station wagon, embarked on one of the house calls that formed a staple of his family practice back in the 1950s. Sometimes he would take me along, ostensibly to educate me, but, in fact, it was to terrorize me. I can hear him talking in a low monotone, telling lewd, horrible, racist, and misogynistic jokes, reciting the supposed sins and treacheries of my siblings, setting one child against the other.
Behind the closed windows of the station wagon, as he smiled and waved to the townspeople, he would keep spewing until we arrived at the house of his patient. Then, leaving me in the car to process his rant, he would transform into the prototype of a kindly family doc and go about saving the world. Very early on, I realized he was more of an actor than a physician.
A handsome, charming, diabolical actor. He was chunky and carried a bit of a gut, standing about 5'9" and weighing around 180 £ds. Even if I hadn't run marathons, I never would have let myself pack on the £ds, because I have lived my life by not emulating Dr. Samuel Shorter.
Another detail comes to mind: his tattoos. In the 1950s, it was odd for a professional man to sport tattoos, but Dr. Sam took pride in this common touch. One tat was straightforward: "Kitty," my mother's nickname, was engraved on his left forearm. On his right shoulder, ironically, he wore an image of the caduceus, underscored by the Hippocratic Oath: "First, Do No Harm." The tattoo on his right forearm was more difficult to interpret: an image of the cartoon character Felix the Cat. Did Dr. Sam identify with this character and his prowling tomcat proclivities? Did he regard himself as a hunter of the night? I don't know. I never cared enough to ask and hadn't remembered the tattoos until I saw Chris dying and started talking with my sisters. I specifically recalled Felix because I would see the cat's jaunty smile each time my father raised his hand to whip me.
The theater for our family's Gothic drama was Middletown, New York, 60 miles north of New York City, halfway between the Hudson and Delaware rivers in Orange County. This area was originally Iroquois Indian territory. As a boy I would often find arrowheads, or what I believed to be arrowheads, in a field by a creek where I caught tadpoles. In the 17th century, Dutch settlers sailed up the Hudson from their recently purchased Manhattan Island. The Dutch brutally eradicated the native people but failed to exorcise the valley's ghosts. This was Washington Irving country, the province of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. More than 300 years later, the old stone farmhouses dotting the countryside were still occupied by the descendants of those stern Calvinists; my boyhood friends had surnames like Van Orden and Van Fleet. The foursquare Dutch Colonial houses of our town were rumored to hold dark family secrets.
Fifteen miles from the Hudson River, at the midpoint of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, Middletown steadily prospered, becoming a nexus for the railroads running up to Lake Erie and its ports. Together, the New York, Ontario and Western (commonly known as the O&W) Railway and the Erie Railroad formed our town's economic engine. Good transportation promoted industry, and from the mid-19th century up until the time I grew up there in the 1950s and early '60s, Middletown hummed with furniture, shoe, and lawn mower factories. The town nestled comfortably and attractively in the heart of the Hudson River valley, anchored by the tall white steeples of the Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Catholic churches.
Our family belonged to the Middletown elite. Dr. Sam's father, my grandfather, was a prominent optometrist who was famous for his practice's catchy motto: "See Longer, See Shorter." My father graduated from Hobart College and married my mother, Katherine, his hometown sweetheart, who lived five doors down from the Shorters and who had attended William Smith College, Hobart's sister school. He graduated in 1942, in the midst of the Second World War, and the army sent him through an accelerated wartime program at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. He received his MD degree in 1945 and shipped out to Germany just as the war was ending. He was stationed at Wiesbaden, West Germany, near Munich, where I was born in 1947.
Later, my sisters, three of whom are nurses, would speculate that our father's psychopathology might have sprung from the searing cases and scenes he encountered as a young physician in Germany just after World War II and at the dawn of the cold war. Bavaria was a grim place then, with mountains of rubble in Munich, the region's bombed-out capital; massive displaced persons camps; and the Soviet army poised just a few miles to the east. But I don't think my father had it so bad. His practice at the big US Army hospital in Wiesbaden was mostly routine: setting broken bones, administering penicillin shots, and the like. In fact, he maneuvered to have my delivery in the hospital in Munich, where the army brass received their medical treatment.
No, I don't see Germany as the seat of my father's ferocity. A more likely primary source was my grandfather, the "See Longer, See Shorter" optometrist, whom I remember as a hard, dour man who never showed any affection for his grandchildren. My father liked to tell a story from his own childhood. The family was driving on a trip to visit relatives in Missouri, his father at the wheel, the kids in the back seat. One of the children let his teddy bear fly out the window, which enraged the old man. Instead of stopping the car and retrieving the teddy bear, he reached back and, without taking his eyes off the road, raked the back of his hand across the faces of all three kids in the back seat.
As he told this story, Dr. Sam appeared anything but traumatized. In fact, he seemed delighted. My father was obviously impressed by his own father's fluency and resourcefulness with regard to violence. The sadistic streak clearly ran in the family.
In 1947, when I was an infant, Dr. Sam completed his military stint and returned to America. Instead of rushing back home to join the post-war prosperity flood of returning veterans, he chose an alternative path. Just as there was no clear accounting for his rage, there was no obvious source for my father's altruism, his taking the Hippocratic Oath to an extreme, his overwhelming desire to act as a savior in the world's eyes. He wasn't religiously observant, nor did he express strong political convictions. Whatever its source, even if he only sought to compensate publicly for his private atrocities, his drive to serve was daunting.
His first position in the States was serving coal miners and their families in the heart of Appalachia, in a place called Ward Hollow, West Virginia. We lived in a company house at the base of a desiccated mountain. Train tracks ran through our backyard, carrying miners to the mine face. I remember my father showing me a .38 caliber handgun that he said he carried for protection from snakes. What I recall most clearly, however, was receiving my first beating from my father. Again, a shard, a fragment of a memory: I am running, sobbing, across a hot asphalt road. I'm 3 years old. My father has taken his belt to me because I've soiled my diaper.
After a year or two in West Virginia, Dr. Sam decided to return to Middletown to establish his practice and raise his family. The town was at its postwar peak, with factories churning at full employment and housing tracts sprouting. Babies arrived by the bushel, and Dr. Sam delivered a high percentage of them. He bought a grand, rambling Victorian home on Highland Avenue and ran his practice out of offices on the ground floor.
By all appearances, he was a brilliant and tireless young doc. He worked heroically during the 1952 polio epidemic, administering the Salk vaccine, the first wonder drug of the Baby Boom era. He set fractured bones and treated the measles. Even today his influence is remembered in Middletown. If you go to the public library downtown, Phyllis Nestor, one of the reference librarians, will recall that Dr. Sam treated her poison ivy. My friend Ed Diana, the county commissioner, remembers him as a pillar of the community. Ed proclaimed a day in my father's honor when he retired from the county health department in 1996.
But at home my father was a psychopath who inflicted extreme physical, emotional, and sexual violence on his wife and children. Just as he worked tirelessly at his profession, he worked tirelessly at hurting us. It was as if he'd taken graduate courses in how to break our spirit and mess with our minds. He berated one of my sisters for her crossed eyes, a condition he refused to have treated until she was 7. He never attended one of his children's games, races, performances, or recitals. He kept my mother as a virtual prisoner in her own house.