Running legend Shorter smiling about QC Marathon growth

Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2012, 7:54 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
By Steve Tappa, stappa@qconline.com
Frank Shorter got to revisit the site of his greatest success in July, re-tracing with a German public TV crew the course of 1972's Olympic marathon and the steps it took to win a Gold medal.

This weekend, the "Babe Ruth of Running" gets to review again the results of that seminal moment, which is widely credited for igniting the running boom in the United States in the 1970s that still is being realized to this day in the annual growth in the sport.

The Quad Cities Marathon, celebrating a 15th anniversary this Sunday, is one of the countless events across the country fathered by Shorter's successes.

And, for the fourth time since the local race's founding in 1998, the event and the icon intersect, with Shorter serving as the QCM's keynote speaker tonight at the Noodles & Company Pasta Party, 5-7 p.m. at Moline's i wireless Center.

"It's fun for me to come back and see how this event has grown," said Shorter, also the event's featured voice in 2002, 1999 and its debuting year.

"When you talk about community events like the Bix 7 and (QC) Marathon, you're talking about personalities, in this case, (Bix race director) Ed Froehlich and (QC Marathon race director) Joe Moreno, and people just feed off their labor of love. And before too long, it transforms into an event the community really embraces."

In fact, this year the QCM eclipses Moreno's long-stated goal of attracting 5,000 participants despite not being able to draw upon college and high school runners, who are in-season and banned from outside competition.

"I love that this event has taken off," said Shorter, the only American marathoner to win two Olympic medals, settling for silver in 1976 in Montreal. "It's a credit to the hard work by Joe, the organizing committee and the volunteers here. This also is part of the national phenomenon of seeing marathons becoming more and more popular. Every race seems to be doing well and bucking the trend."

Shorter has his suspicions on why marathons have flourished while most other sports have floundered in a sluggish economy since 2008's financial crash.

"The distance has been demystified, which has led to more and more people running a marathon and the sport being more popular now than it's ever been," said Shorter, who also just missed medaling in the '72 Olympics in the 10,000-meter run, finishing fifth before winning the marathon. "But I need to remind people, let's not get complacent. You do have to train for these races. You shouldn't just jump into a half-marathon or longer on a whim. It takes hard work you just can't skip.

"There are a lot of great programs or running groups out there that help people get to the finish line. There's more support available for runners now than in my hey day."

Also helping distance running grow? Multiple generations being involved in the sport.

"Somewhere along the line, the baby boomers like me have realized they didn't get into this sport for personal records," said Shorter, a 24-time national champion.

"Don't get me wrong; the time you ran was important once upon a time. But there's so much more to this sport than that, so the goals change with age.

"Suddenly you're not as concerned with your time, but you feel the same thrill taking off from the starting line, and the same sense of satisfaction when crossing the finish line. Some are better than others at doing it, but it's something we all can and should do, and keep doing the rest of our lives."

Shorter, a likely early victim of the rise of Performance Enhancing Drugs, also points to the effects on running of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, a body he helped established and chaired from 2000-03.

"It's a good time to be in a high school locker room again, whereas 20 years ago, the discussion was, if you want to be an Olympic athlete, you're going to have to get involved with PEDs," Shorter said. "Now we've seen that paradigm shift, and we're getting back to the mindset that it takes hard work to achieve your goals.

"It's a simple sport. There is no magic formula, no shortcut to success. Just work hard, put your head down and go fast. I think a lot of the revolutionary ideas and alternative training methods cropped up in the past as a smoke screen because of the other things people were doing."

Shorter turns 65 this Halloween so allows he is nearing the end of his path in life.

However pausing once in awhile to look back reminds him what an extraordinary journey it has been.

"To look back 40 years ago, and my race in Munich, to where we are now, it's just incredible," Shorter said. "So many runners and so many events are on the landscape now. It's humbling to think maybe I played a small part in that."

Pre-race events

All at Moline's i wireless Center:
10 a.m.-6 p.m.: The Health & Fitness Expo, also offers packet pickup and late registration for Sunday's five race distances (mile, 5K, half-marathon, marathon relay and the 26.2 mile namesake).
1:30 p.m.: The Happy Joe's Kid's Micro-Marathon, offers three non-competitive distances (mile, half-mile, quarter-mile) for children of all ages and abilities. The event includes jump houses, balloons, face painting, Happy Joe's Pizza, T-shirts and goodie bags to all finishers. Registration available for $15 up until race time.

5-7 p.m.: The Noodles & Co. Pasta Party, featuring keynote speaker Frank Shorter. Tickets are $10 (one trip) or $15 (all you can eat) at the door.


Local events heading

  Today is Saturday, Sept. 20, the 263rd day of 2014. There are 102 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Recruits can get $500 by enlisting now. Lt Jobe has a recruiting office on Illinois Street.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Superintendent Schnitger formally inaugurated the Rock Island and Davenport Railway Line of the Holmes system by putting on four cars to start.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Wires of the defunct Union Electric Co. are being removed by city electricians.
1939 -- 75 years ago: The Bishop Hill softball team won the championship in WHB"S Mississippi Valley tournament at Douglas Park.
1964 -- 50 years ago: A boom in apartment construction has hit Rock Island, with approximately 300 units either in or near the construction stage or due for an early rezoning decision.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Members of the Bi-State Metropolitan Planning Commission are hoping to revive their push for a new $70 million four-lane bridge spanning the Mississippi River.

(More History)