1972 Munich Olympic Games- Frank Shorter Wins The Marathon



At the 1972 Munich Olympics  Frank Shorter became the first American to win the Marathon since Johnny Hayes at the 1908 Games. Shorter’s victory was the main spark in igniting the running boom in the United States in the 1970’s. Frank Shorter was born in Munich, Germany of all places. His father was a physician in the United States Army stationed there. Frank Shorter grew up in New York and was educated at Yale.

In the Marathon he took the lead at the 15 kilometer mark and pulled away from the pack and was never challenged. An odd thing happened when he entered the Olympic Stadium at the finish. He was expecting to be greeted by cheers instead he heard boos and he had the look of extreme confusion. What had happened was a couple minutes before he entered the stadium a hoaxer had appeared on the track and had run a lap before the authorites got a hold of him. The crowd wasn’t booing Shorter but the hoaxer. No American has won the Olympic Men’s Marathon since Frank Shorter forty years ago. Finishing with the bronze was 1968 marathon champion Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia who at the age of 40 ran his fastest marathon ever. Shorter had won the race by 2 minutes and 12 seconds.

At the 1976 Montreal Games, Frank Shorter entered the race as a favorite but would finish with the silver medal, the winner being a previously unknown Waldemar Cierpinski of East Germany [who would win it in 1980 also- more on him later}

Frank Shorter was also the next to last person to see his friend the great long distance runner Steve Prefontaine before Prefontaine was killed in a car accident in the mid 1970s. Below is a picture of Frank Shorter and Steve Prefontaine.



Just a side note. I was 11 at the time of Frank Shorter’s victory. I would have a spirt where I ran for a while, then in the mid 1970’s I thought I wanted to run a marathon someday. I wrote the three greatest marathon runners in America at the time, Frank Shorter, Kenny Moore who finished 4th in Munich, and Bill Rodgers who won a number of Boston Marathons. To my surprise I got long letters back from Kenny Moore and Bill Rodgers. I was amazed and even more amazed now when I think these two guys sat down and wrote long, thoughful letters to some 15 year old kid. I did enjoy running for some time. I never ran a marathon though. I regret that I didn’t.




2 responses to “1972 Munich Olympic Games- Frank Shorter Wins The Marathon

    • as a kid i was amazed but not as amazed as i am now being an adult. i know how precious time is..how busy people are… in kenny moore’s letter he first apologized for being so slow in writing back. he was working on some government report on the 76 games or something.. he was sorry his response took so long…

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