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Kings of the Road: How Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar Made Running Go Boom

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  364 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Winner of the 2015 Armory Foundation Book Award from the Track & Field Writers of America

For fans of The Perfect Mile and Born to Run, a riveting, three-pronged narrative about the golden era of running in America—the 1970s—as seen through running greats, Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar

It was 1978. Jimmy Carter was President; gas prices were soaring; and
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 9th 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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Feb 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Comments based advanced reader's copy - thanks Houghton Mifflin. Exceptional history of the great American distance runners, their impact on the sport, their many meetings in the Falmouth road race, and the rise and fall of American distance runners as world class athletes. For an older reader like myself it depicted the golden age of American running; when race entry fees were under $10 and you could run shoulder to shoulder (for a few yards)with the best in the world and share a beer with them ...more
May 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: finished-2013
Would have really enjoyed this book if it were not for the author's criticisms throughout the book. Out of nowhere and for no reason he critiques barefoot running and hated it. He dislikes the increased popularity of running and finds it a reason for th the end of the boom- If only women, Kenyans, and penguins would get off the course and not race (his critiques not mine). Otherwise this would have become a favorite of mine.
Jun 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Like so many others I found the author's attitude dimmed my overall enjoyment of the book. As one of those slow, noncompetitive runners he so disdains, I disagree with the idea that mass participation has killed the sport. Long distance Running is never going to rise to the level of pro football or basketball because it simply isn't visually exciting. Those who are super competitive about running will be so whether the rest of us are there or not. People who don't run just don't care and I don't ...more
Rui Carlos da Cunha
I finished this book the other night. Absolutely amazing writing from start to finish. Horribly sad the release coincided with the tragedy of the 2013 Boston Marathon, but I believe it will do well if enough readers give it positive reviews. Having run cross-country and long-distance track for a couple of years at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, CA, this book, Kings of the Road, spoke to me of the grace in victory and the agony of defeat.

I gave the ARC to my co-worker, Angelica, who runs
Aug 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I must have, I finished it in a day.

As a youngish runner, who completed my first marathon in 1986 in NY, many of the runners names were familiar from the old ( well my young) days. The book was well written and clearly well researched.

I was tempted to give it a 5 but felt held back by two factors, the very abrupt ending to the volume ( it would have been great to have been bought up to date on Shorter, Rodgers and Salazar as well as some of the other characters). I w
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a history of the great American distance runners from 1972-1982. The author writes about how good Shorter, Rodgers, and Salazar were and their rise to become world class athletes. I would recommended this book to distance runners and those interested in sports history. I really enjoyed seeing the rivalry that developed and how these men in turn made each other better by striving to be the best themselves.
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Cameron Stracher's "Kings of the Road" is an absorbing look at the ascendency of Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar as the U.S.'s top road runners in the late Seventies. Stracher is wise to organize his book around these three, who raced each other head-to-head on multiple occasions. In particular, Stracher's subplot about the organization and expansion of the Falmouth road race in Massachusetts, where the three runners battled each other, is a clever framework for "Kings of the Ro ...more
David Duncan
Only the super competitive should bother?

The author seems to glorify the fathers of the running boom training and competing themselves into the ground.

What’s wrong with simply running for the fun of it and the sense of self accomplishment I get— not to mention the endorphins? .

I started at the age of 48. First a quarter marathon, then a half, and finally a full marathon. As an older runner, I was able to accomplish all of these (without serious injury) using Jeff Galloway’s run/walk/run system
Ashley Deeter evans
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
I liked the book overall, with a few critiques. The book jumped through time quite a lot, back and forth. Would have preferred a more linear time line, as I’m trying to keep straight where each runner, and their girl friends etc, are in time. Small enough issue. The other critique is one it seems I share with other readers. The author is an holier than thou a*hole. His attitude towards runners who aren’t “elite,” and the terms he uses to describe them are despicable. The same runners he describe ...more
Lee Murray
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a good read, especially if you are a runner. Three of the most influential runners and the events that made them are highlighted. One—Alberto Salazar—is still influencing the sport today through his coaching.

If you’re a runner this book is for you. It covers the time period just prior to the emergence of the Kenyan runners as a dominant force in running.
Josh Morgan
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
An interesting story of the three men at the heart of America's running boom. The timeline was sometimes difficult to follow, but the details of the races were gripping. I either didn't fully understand, or didn't appreciate the epilogue about how average people running somehow ruins running as a sport. Major League Baseball doesn't complain about church league softball games.
Sarah Logan-Reynolds
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A quick fun read for anyone who has athletic thoughts, this book is informative in an interesting way. No you don’t have to be a runner to enjoy it!
Justin Britton
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Good to nerd out a bit. Really got me even more pumped for the Boston Marathon in a few weeks. Learned some stuff I didn’t know.
Alia Gray
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This should be required reading for all runners out there. I loved reading through the history of the boom and better understanding some of the modern road races that I now take part in.
Nick Slenning
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A well-told recounting of the forefathers of American distance running's hey-day
Liz DeLise
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
this was a good history of the sport of running.
Kyanne Ruth
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Kings of the Road" was an instant hit for me. It automatically intrigued me and then Stracher drew me in with his knowledge about running. There were, of course, parts of the book that were confusing. I had to reread a few sections because Stracher talked about so many runners and I couldn't remember who won this race, and lost that race. The names of the runners started running together. Besides the confusion of the runners the book was outstanding. I would definitely read this book again and ...more
Jul 20, 2014 rated it liked it
I've been reading this book I gave to my dad several father's days ago about when running "went boom" in the 1970's. Specifically, the book is about Alberto Salazar, Frank Shorter, and Boston marathon champion Bill Rodgers. Stracher writes that in the 1970's, "running was both a symptom of Sisyphean despair and the antidote to discontent and torpor. One foot in front of the other, a meaningless activity, and yet the most profound." I also liked how he points out that distance runners often share ...more
Feb 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Although Cameron Stracher in, "Kings of the Road", writes about the American running boom which occurred in the 1970s many of his arguments about the sport are still pertinent to this day and age and not just in the States.

It is a fascinating look at the nascent period of running before it turned into the boom of the eighties and which, although Stracher disagrees, continues to this day. Stracher places the development in its historical context as the more innocent free loving America of the six
Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Kings of the Road is the story of running in its golden age in America, its rise in popularity and growth told through the lens of one race—the Falmouth Road Race from 1973 to 1982. In that decade Falmouth was dominated by three men—Shorter, Rodgers, and the youthful Salazar—who rose from obscurity to become national heroes.

Falmouth was the brainchild of Tommy Leonard, an eccentric bartender from Boston, and high school coach John Carroll. In 1973, at twelve noon, the first “Falmouth marathon”
Kristi Mangan
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was fascinating to me because I'm an avid runner and because I heard many of these names and stories from my dad, who idolized Salazar and ran the famous 1980 NYC marathon recounted here. The colorful history of the late 70s running boom is interesting and the contrasts between race organization then and now are striking (elites running around spectators on the course, the fact that the first NYC marathon was run down stairs in one section because the city refused to close roads ...). Strac ...more
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: running
I once met Bill Rodgers at a running store while picking up my bib for a local race. He was there signing autographs and most people didn't have a clue who he was. It was sort of sad. I was thinking this guy won the Boston and NYC marathons 4 times, and people were more interested in the shoe sale rack and their goody bag. I had a great conversation with him about training and his racing career. I was the only person wanting to talk with him.

I share that story to say that this book will not appe
Sam Gross
Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Fascinating story of names I'd heard of but people with whom I was not familiar from an age before the African powerhouses took over long distance running. I have mixed emotions though about the author's concluding comments; that the boom in running as a mass participation activity coincided with a downturn amongst elite performances. I accept the premise but feel that argument fails to acknowledge the wonder that is mass participation running events today. The feeling of camaraderie amongst str ...more
Feb 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Some interesting facts about the rise of running in the era of Shorter, Rodgers, and Salazar. But as a runner who participates in races as a way to have fun and stay healthy, I found the author's pessimism about the future of running in the U.S. to be frustrating. Race participation does not hinder an elite group from focusing on performance. I believe the author's frustration about running in the U.S. is misplaced. There may be a failure of our institutions to support elite runners, but that is ...more
Jul 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: running
Stracher wrote this book not from the tradition stand point: basing performances off of the marathon (usually Boston), but off of the founding of a race in Cape Code, the Falmouth 7-miler.
The book was well researched and a fast read, that I really enjoyed. Gave great insights to the founding of the NYC Marathon, Falmouth, and race management, with a section near the back of the book talking about the sport today and the issues that we face. It lacked extraordinary writing or moments in the book
Heather Durick
Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
I really, really wanted to like this book. I liked the history and how the author attempted to weave the stories of these three greats together. Somehow he completely failed and ends up with disjointed narrative which doesn't really help tell the story of the running boom. What really kills this book is the author's snarky, know it all commentary sprinkled throughout and in the epilogue. He seems to think that the rise of the recreational marathoner has killed the competitiveness of US marathon ...more
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great to relive those heady running years of the 70s and 80s, this book has a Boston-centric view of running, which is fine with me since I knew least about the east coast running scene. It's amazing the running boom ever happened but was it really as popular as the author made it seem? I'm not sure. It's certainly true that American runners no longer dominate and I think the author is right when he says the decline is due in part to the lack of clubs, or groups where top runners can congregate ...more
kyle pellét
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
There are a lot of errors in this book, many of which should be obvious to any runner with a knowledge of the sport's history or any person who can use Wikipedia. Those errors are the whole reason I bothered to write this. They're super distracting. To name a few: Heartbreak Hill is one of the Newton Hills and not the four hills together, Rodgers didn't win the Boston Marathon four times in a row, Onitsuka Tiger wasn't bought by Asics, and Salazar doesn't coach Ryan Hall.
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
It was good to learn that Frank Shorter has not been known for his warmth. The author's anecdote regarding this: "According to a friend, once while he [Shorter] was running with his girlfriend, she stumbled and fell, and rather than helping her up, he simply told her to watch herself." Page 101
I met Frank Shorter once as a 17-year-old kid and was able to get a half-hearted, on-the-go handshake. I definitely noticed his lack warmth, and yet loved him all the more for it.
Andrew Kiluk
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great synopsis of a special period in distance running in America. I was in middle school in the late 70s and ran cross country and track - never any good , I none the less , lived to run and followed the exploits of Rodgers , Shorter , and Salazar the way some people following NASCAR. A great trip down memory lane, well written , concise- will make you want to hit the pavement.
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Cameron Stracher practices and teaches law. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications. He lives in Westport, CT, with his wife, two children, and two dogs, not necessarily in that order.

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