Frank Shorter’s father, a kindly, charitable town doctor, savagely beat every member of his family. Young Frank got into running, initially, as an outlet—escaping to the roads to cope with his violent home. In college, at Yale, he did the same— escaping to the roads to cope with his rigorous studies. 

At the suggestion of his coach, Frank increased his mileage a bit and placed 19th at NCAA cross country championships. At the suggestion of Jack Bachelor— and entomologist and America’s best distance runner— Frank increased his mileage even more, and won the NCAA six mile championship on the track.

After college, Frank continued to increase his mileage, bouncing between town and jobs before finally settling in Gainesville, Florida with Bachelor and his training partner, Jeff Galloway. The trio trained like madmen— running twice a day, searing through intervals sessions twice a week, and each weekend running twenty miles— all in the heavy Panhandle heat. The interval sessions usually consisted of ten to fifteen quarter mile repeats with very, very little rest. They sped carelessly along the thin red line between improvement and injury, and in 1972 all three of them made the Olympic team. 

In Munich, Frank set an American record in his heat of the 10,000m. In the final, he set another American record, finishing fifth behind Lasse Viren’s world record. Days later, Frank ran the marathon, broke open the field with a vicious surge, and won a gold medal. 

His tactics revolutionized the marathon— strategy prior to Shorter involved outlasting your enemy; Shorter’s surges added actual tactics. His win revolutionized running in America— soon everyone wanted to run a marathon like the famous Frank Shorter; road races became big business. His fame revolutionized athletics—Olympic restrictions prevented athletes from earning off their endeavors; Frank wielded his stardom to abolish amateurism and allow runners to make money from their efforts. 

To do all this, Frank followed a simple formula:

“Two hard interval sessions a week and one long runs, 20 miles or two hours, whichever comes first. Everything other run is aerobic and you do as much of that as you can handle. Do this or 2-3 years. You’ll get good.”

With this weekly structure, now a familiar cadence employed by runners everywhere, Frank Shorter fathered the modern sport of running.