Synopses & Reviews
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 Americans were hunkering down to weather the economic crisis. But in bookstores Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running was a bestseller. Frank Shorter’s gold medal in the 1972 Olympic marathon had put distance running in the mind of a public enamored of baseball and football. Suddenly, the odd activity of "jogging" became "running," and America was in love.
That summer, a junior from the University of Oregon named Alberto Salazar went head to head with Olympic champion Frank Shorter and Boston Marathon champion Bill Rodgers at the Falmouth Road Race, losing in the last mile to Rodgers's record-setting 32:21, nearly dying in the process, and setting the stage for a great rivalry. In Shorter, Rodgers, and Salazar, running had its conflict and drama like boxing had Ali and Foreman, like basketball had Russell and Chamberlain. Each man built on what the other achieved, and each pushed the other to succeed. Their successes, in turn, fueled a nation of coach potatoes to put down the remote and lace up their sneakers.
Kings of the Road tells the story of running during that golden period from 1972 to 1981 when Shorter, Rodgers, and Salazar captured the imagination of the American public as they passed their figurative baton from one to the other. These three men were American running during those years, while the sport enjoyed a popularity never equaled. As America now experiences a similar running boom, Kings of the Road is a stirring, inspiring narrative of three men pushing themselves toward greatness and taking their country along for the ride.
"Possesses a period charm." Booklist
“A focused survey of three unmatched American long-distance runners….Essential reading for runners both competitive and casual.” Kirkus Reviews
“Kings of the Road is about marathon legends. It's about running Fast. It's about Will. It's about the Real. It's about drama of the finest kind.” Bernd Heinrich, author of Why We Run and Racing the Antelope
“In Kings of the Road, Cameron Stracher recaptures the wonder, energy, and excitement of American road racing from 1972 to 1982. With amazing detail and action, he follows Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar to their greatest victories in an era when they became national sports icons.” Amby Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon winner and Runner's World Editor-at-Large
“Combining a novelist's eye for character and detail with an historian's insight into patterns and connections, Cameron Stracher's Kings of the Road delivers a rollicking, informed account of the rise of the American running movement. Bringing the 1970's alive in all their brokenness, weirdness, and hope, Stracher shows how distance running helped define a generation. Kings of the Road rekindles Baby Boomer memories while introducing younger readers to an overlooked piece of sporting and social history.” John Brant, author of Duel in the Sun and co-author (with Alberto Salazar) of 14 Minutes
There was a time when running the mile in four minutes was believed to be beyond the limits of human foot speed, and in all of sport it was the elusive holy grail. In 1952, after suffering defeat at the Helsinki Olympics, three world-class runners each set out to break this barrier. Roger Bannister was a young English medical student who epitomized the ideal of the amateur still driven not just by winning but by the nobility of the pursuit. John Landy was the privileged son of a genteel Australian family, who as a boy preferred butterfly collecting to running but who trained relentlessly in an almost spiritual attempt to shape his body to this singular task. Then there was Wes Santee, the swaggering American, a Kansas farm boy and natural athlete who believed he was just plain better than everybody else.
Spanning three continents and defying the odds, their collective quest captivated the world and stole headlines from the Korean War, the atomic race, and such legendary figures as Edmund Hillary, Willie Mays, Native Dancer, and Ben Hogan. In the tradition of Seabiscuit and Chariots of Fire, Neal Bascomb delivers a breathtaking story of unlikely heroes and leaves us with a lasting portrait of the twilight years of the golden age of sport.
About the Author
Cameron Stracher is a graduate of Harvard Law School and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is the author of The Laws of Return, Double Billing, and Dinner with Dad, as well as the YA dystopian thriller, The Water Wars. In addition to his books, Cameron is a media lawyer who has written for the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the American Lawyer, where he is a contributing editor, and many other publications. He lives in Westport, Connecticut, with his wife and two children and is a dedicated runner.
Table of Contents
contents prologue ix part i A REASON TO RUN ~ 1 part ii THE BARRIER ~ 69 part iii THE PERFECT MILE ~ 195 epilogue 256 Authorand#8217;s Note 273 Acknowledgments 275 Notes 277 Index 307