Shorter feels the shop is going to enable him to concentrate on training for a full year, or year and a half, before the Moscow Olympics. "That's what other people do. Apart from running, zero."
Shorter, a lawyer, has checked out the effect of all this on his amateur standing. "I can't let someone else pay me, and endorse things," he says, "but the AAU has said that as long as I have the principal financial interest in the store and actually work at it, it's O.K. This has been done in other countries for years."
Given the look of the market, the chances that the store will do well enough to let him take off are O.K., too. Running is becoming virtually the U.S. national amateur sport.
Lillstrom, whose title on the firm's board of directors is "Prince," is an example of someone now hooked on running. "I'd always considered myself to be a weekend athlete," he says. "But even a casual athlete can't limit his exercise exclusively to weekends because he's going to end up not being able to get out of bed on Monday. I didn't understand this until I was 30 or 31 years old. Then it finally dawned on me why I wasn't enjoying skiing as much, and why I was getting beaten at tennis. I wasn't fit. So two years ago I began running to stay in shape for skiing and tennis.
"But running quickly became an end in itself. Last summer I played tennis just twice. Instead of playing in tennis tournaments, I entered a 10,000-meter race, two marathons and a 15.7-mile hill climb. Even so, it didn't occur to me until the end of the year that running was my sport. It is the kind of thing people take up to test themselves, the way people enter local tennis or handball tournaments, or NASTAR, if they're skiers.
"If one jogs regularly, whatever the weather, he will enjoy himself that much more. And eventually, for guys like me, running becomes a drug. We absolutely must have that 'running fix' or we hate ourselves. I can't think of anything I enjoy more than getting up on a nice crisp morning and going out 'cruising.' When I was training last summer in Boulder for my second marathon, I used to just take off straight up Flagstaff Mountain in a pair of running shoes and shorts and a jock, that's all. I felt like an animal. It's a nifty feeling. You do a little rock climbing, run through streams—it's called fartlek in Swedish, speed-play, a jaunt in the woods."
As for Shorter's running, he now works eight hours a day, but at odd times. "I set my work schedule around my training." The whole store, in fact, is geared to running. The employees work out their hours among themselves so they can all get their training in. A typical day in Boulder: salesperson and marathoner Cherrie Bridges runs to the shop. Shorter runs to the bank. New partner and Comptroller Rob Yahn runs to Shorter's house, while hill-runner Charlie Vigil runs the shop. Even Louise Shorter takes time from sewing and modifying samples to run about five miles a day. There is a locker/shower room for everyone to clean up in after all this. "It's the first thing we put in," says Shorter. "Even before the cash register."
Being participants in the sport, the group knows the gear better than anyone else. They all test the clothes that Kubiak makes, and everyone runs in everything. The board members even have business meetings on the hoof.
"That's a good time to talk to Shorter," says Lillstrom. But he adds, "After seven miles, usually Frank is doing all the talking."