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It's only a transitory analogy
Skip Myslenski
December 07, 1970
Frank Shorter, the ex-Yalie, ex-med student, ex-also-ran, adds the AAU championship to his laurels—without sacrificing the Elliott Gould touch
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December 07, 1970

It's Only A Transitory Analogy

Frank Shorter, the ex-Yalie, ex-med student, ex-also-ran, adds the AAU championship to his laurels—without sacrificing the Elliott Gould touch

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This soliloquy is as philosophical as Shorter will get; he prefers to define himself through his actions. "Oh, I could sit here and put labels on my attitude," he says, "start throwing terms around, but that would be quite phony, as bad as putting labels on anything. I remember a parody put out by a Yale humor magazine. It listed one of the requirements for a degree as being able to talk at a cocktail party for two hours, entertainingly but superficially, about your major. To sit here and psychoanalyze my running would be just as superficial."

Yet even with the limited recognition that has come with his success—most notably a double in the AAU and the upset win in the 10,000 in Leningrad (SI, Aug. 3)—last summer—Shorter feels that he may be getting too monomaniacal. Though he has moved to Boulder and is now a grader in the University of Colorado business school, he plans to start law school at Florida in March, as much for diversion as for a degree.

"I'm becoming sort of anxious to get back to school," he admits. "I'm concentrating too much on running. It's such a temporary thing. Before I did it because I wanted to do well. Now I'm concerned that I'm getting upset at the chance of losing. I want to think of other things. When I'm East for the indoor season I hope I can sneak up to Stowe and do a little skiing.

"I want to do well, but it can't be the end-all. I don't consider that fatalistic, but realistic. Maybe there is a lack of self-confidence to a certain degree, a tempered confidence. In a way you scare yourself into doing well."

There was little to scare Shorter last Saturday. Steve Prefontaine, the University of Oregon sophomore who had won the NCAA cross-country championship five days earlier, was back in Eugene because, as his coach, Bill Bowerman, explained, "Our theory around here in the fall is not to run the horse until all the races are out of him." But for Shorter, the AAU was the big race. He had trained for it by running 125 miles a week at Boulder's 5,350-foot altitude and, despite his nervousness, he was never really threatened. He had a narrow lead at the mile, was 20 yards ahead at two miles. 100 at three and it lengthened from there. "Easy, easy," Shorter said later. "I just set my own tempo, and when they let me do that I'm happy. I never like to think I have it won, but I knew no one was going to make up 30 seconds on me in the last mile." As he splashed down the final straight. Shorter turned to wave encouragement to teammate Bacheler, in second place, then finished in 30:15.7, with Bacheler 28 seconds behind.

So Frank Shorter carries on. "I know the work I've done," he says, "and I know the results I can hope for. The guy who stands there and says that this is some kind of joke, that I'm putting it over on them, is some kind of character actor a director picks up off a street corner. There's no way I could fool myself into thinking that way. Like, do you remember when those guys in M*A*S*H walked into the operating room wearing plaid pants and knickers and carrying golf clubs? The nurse went crazy and told them they couldn't go in. They knew what they were doing, so they casually walked by, introduced themselves as 'the pro from Dover and my favorite caddie' and did the operation. It was successful, and no one could deny them. That was great."

No, Frank. Beautiful.

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