Frank Charles Shorter (born October 31, 1947) is an American former long-distance runner who won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1972 Summer Olympics and the silver medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics. His Olympic successes, along with the achievements of other American runners, are credited with igniting the running boom in the United States during the 1970s.
In the October 2011 issue of Runner's World, an article by John Brant detailed the traumatic household life Frank and his siblings suffered at the hands of his father and the buckle end of his belt. While his father enjoyed great prominence in his community, his behavior may have reflected, "a profound narcissistic personality disorder" according to Barbara duPlessis, Frank's sister. With the publication of the Runner's World article, Mr. Shorter will begin to elaborate on stopping similar cycles of violence in more detail and in public.
Shorter first achieved distinction by winning the 1969 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) 10,000-meter title during his senior year at Yale. He won his first U.S. national titles in 1970 in the 5000-meter and 10,000-meter events. He also was the U.S. national 10,000-meter champion in 1971, 1974, 1975 and 1977.
After graduating from Yale, Shorter chose to pursue a Juris Doctor degree at the University of Florida in Gainesville because of the excellence of the environment and the opportunity to train with Jack Bacheler as members of the Florida Track Club (FTC) founded by Jimmy Carnes, then the head coach of the Florida Gators track and field team. Bacheler was regarded as America's best distance runner, having qualified for the finals of the 5,000-meter race at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. The FTC's core nucleus of Shorter, Bacheler and Jeff Galloway qualified for the 1972 Olympics and their success made Gainesville the Mecca of distance running on the East Coast in the early 1970s.
Shorter won the U.S. national cross-country championships four times (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973). He was the U.S. Olympic Trials champion in both the 10,000-meter run and the marathon in both 1972 and 1976. He also won both the 10,000-meter run and the marathon at the 1971 Pan American Games. Shorter was a four-time winner of the Fukuoka Marathon (1971, 1972, 1973, 1974), generally recognized as the most prestigious marathon in the world at that time. He was successful on the road racing circuit as well, winning the Peachtree Road Race in 1977 and the Falmouth Road Race in 1975 and 1976.
Shorter's greatest recognition was as a marathon runner, and he is the only American athlete to win two medals in the Olympic marathon. He won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, the city of his birth, after finishing fifth in the Olympic 10,000-meter final. This ultimate achievement was marred by an impostor, West German student Norbert Sudhaus, running into Olympic Stadium ahead of Shorter, who was not bothered by the silence from the crowd who had been duped into thinking that he was running for the silver medal. Shorter was confident that he was going to win the gold medal because he knew that no competing runner had passed him. He received the James E. Sullivan Award afterward as the top amateur athlete in the United States. After dropping out of the 10,000 meters to concentrate exclusively on the marathon, he won the silver medal in the event at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, finishing second behind previously unheralded gold medalist Waldemar Cierpinski of East Germany. Cierpinski was later implicated as a part of the state-sponsored doping program by East German track and field research files uncovered by Werner Franke at the Stasi headquarters in Leipzig in the late 1990s. There were suspicions about other East German athletes during the Montreal Olympics, including the East German women, led by Kornelia Ender, who won eleven of the thirteen swimming events.
Shorter was featured as a prominent character, played by Jeremy Sisto, in the 1998 film Without Limits. The film follows the life of Shorter's contemporary, training partner, Olympic teammate and sometimes rival Steve Prefontaine. Shorter was the next to last person to see Prefontaine alive before he died in an automobile accident.
A long-time resident of Boulder, Colorado, Shorter co-founded the Bolder Boulder in 1979. The annual 10k race is a popular Memorial Day event, which culminates with a tribute to U.S. Armed Forces at Folsom Field at the University of Colorado. A life-size bronze statue of Shorter stands outside the stadium.
^Sports Reference, Olympic Sports, Waldemar Cierpinski. Retrieved March 5, 2010. Cierpinski repeated as the gold medalist at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, one of only two athletes to win the Olympic Marathon twice.