Frank Shorter has forged a remarkably successful life based upon, as he often describes it, the simple concept of putting one foot in front of the other. Then repeat that motion as rapidly and consistently as possible.
Shorter always has been on the move. And so his latest honor, one that will simultaneously recognize the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest accomplishments in American distance running history while offering a festive re-start to the Bolder Boulder, comes with a caveat that goes against Shorter’s very nature.
As the official starter for the 2022 Bolder Boulder, Shorter, at least for a little while on Memorial Day morning, will be required to stand still.
“I won’t get to run,” Shorter said, “But I guess maybe I’ll run the course for fun on another day.”
After two years on the sideline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bolder Boulder is set to make its triumphant return when the 42nd edition of the country’s biggest 10-kilometer road race takes off on Monday morning.
It is perhaps fitting that it will be Shorter who will signal the official re-start of one of Boulder’s biggest annual traditions.
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of an event that was roundly credited with sparking a new enthusiasm in America for distance running, both competitively and recreationally.
At the 1972 Olympics in Munich, just days after he finished fifth in the 10,000-kilometer run while setting an American record he set previously during the qualifying heats, Shorter made history by winning gold in the marathon. Shorter captured the silver medal at the Montreal Games four years later, finishing behind an East German runner, Waldemar Cierpinski, who later was implicated in a pervasive East German doping scandal.
He remains the only American athlete to win a pair of Olympic medals in the marathon.
“I never would have imagined 50 years ago what life might be like, literally and figuratively, 50 years down the road,” Shorter said. “There are so many people, starting with that first (Bolder Boulder) race, I love to do, which is put one foot in front of the other and go down the road. There are a lot of people out there who, like me, have it for stress relief and relaxation. I discovered it at age 10, and I like to think I helped a lot of other people discover it maybe at a later age.
“In a way, I’m in a very thankful mode now. It’s all been a part of the process, and the Bolder Boulder was one of the first major road races to come along in the 1970s. It’s always nice to know where you came from, and this is a big part of that.”
Shorter, of course, is part of the Bolder Boulder’s rich history as well. He was there when the first race sent off in 1979, a competition that was more of a vision than anything awe-inspiring for the scant 2,700 entrants that participated. Shorter won the third Bolder Boulder in 1981 — by then, the entrants already had climbed to 9,000 — in the first race that featured the festive finish within Folsom Field.
Shorter’s statue remains a fixture near Folsom Field, but that fixed pose and Shorter’s brief tenure on Monday morning as the Bolder Boulder’s might be the only instances of Shorter not being a man in motion. Once his duties as the official starter are complete, Shorter will hustle over to Folsom Field to assume his annual chore as the television analyst for the Bolder Boulder broadcast.
“This is a celebration of the 50-year anniversary of him winning the gold medal in 1972, but it also represents him being the champion in 1981 in the third year,” Bolder Boulder race director Cliff Bosley said. “That third race in 1981 was the first one that finished at the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field. So he’s the first official finisher at Folsom of over one million, 300 thousand people. He finished first. That’s a unique tie to the race and the University of Colorado, and Frank is kind of in the middle of it.”
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