Kings of the Road: How Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar Made Running Go Boom (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25.00, 240 pages)
Shorter, Rodgers and Salazar all ran at a time when the hunger for achievement coexisted with real hunger. The two complemented each other, perhaps more than money ever could.
Kings of the Road promised to be an exciting look at the running boom in the U.S. which arrived in 1972 and lasted a year more than a decade. (We now seem to be in the midst of a second running boom, at least when it comes to the sale of running shoes, trail running shoes and related gear.) It’s advertised as a look at the period through the eyes of three major American runners of the time — Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers and Alberto Salazar. Unfortunately, none of the three main characters (all of whom were interviewed by the author) comes to life. And Cameron Stracher seems to have gone out of his way to create or perpetuate stereotypes of the three.
Shorter’s the intelligent, calculating figure; Rodgers is the intellectual lightweight member of the band — Ringo, if you will; and Salazar’s the brooding, anti-social and troubled Latino-American. It all comes off as dry, a bit lifeless and another road trip over territory that’s been well-covered before. In contrast, Duel in the Sun by John Brant, about the 1982 New York City Marathon, is near-essential reading for runners.
Most troubling is the conclusion. Instead of tying things together in a logical fashion, Stracher proceeds to over-intellectualize running — as if it were the very basis of human ambition and existence. It’s not rocket science or — with the possible exception of Salazar — a matter of life and death. It’s not even only rock ‘n roll.
It’s getting outside and placing one foot in front of the other for a few miles and not a whole lot more.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released on April 9, 2013.