Frank Shorter (1972) and Joan Benoit Samuelson (1984) are the only two Americans to have won both a U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and the subsequent Olympic Marathon. Here, just a week before the 2024 Marathon Trials, they talk with George and Amby about their experiences, especially in the pivotal Trials.
Samuelson recalls waking up from surgery 17 days pre-Trials, looking at the bandages covering her right leg from toe to hip, and thinking, "Maybe I can bounce back for the 3000 meters in the Track Trials."
In fact she did much more than that in a Marathon Trials victory that still amazes her. "If somebody asks me about the biggest win of my life, I'll say in was the Olympics in L.A.," she notes. "But the race of my life was the Trials. I can't really explain how I was able to do that."
Shorter recounts how, as an unheralded Yale cross-country runner, he drove from his home in New Mexico to the 1968 Alamosa Olympic Marathon Trials--the first "modern" U.S. Trials to follow a strict Olympics-selection system. He was curious about the marathon distance, and wanted to watch the race. When he arrived, he discovered that anyone could enter (for $3), so he did.
A borrowed, ill-fitting pair of shoes caused him to drop out after 17 miles. But four years later, Shorter tied with Kenny Moore for the top spot, and in 1976 he finished alone at the front.
Shorter credits much of his marathon success to training like a 5000-meter runner, including many workouts with Steve Prefontaine. He thought little of running 6 x 800 meters in 2:01 with 200-meter recovery jogs.
Super-shoes? No, the opposite. Shorter says he won his Olympic gold medal in a pair of track shoes with the spike plate replaced by a thin pad of rubber.
"I just wanted whatever would give me the lightest shoes," he says. "We didn't worry about pounding. I would joke that we had four years to recover."
Where to find “Running: State of the Sport”
Use your smartphone to download podcast apps from Apple, Spotify, Audible, Pandora, or YouTube Podcasts. Once you've selected your favorite app, search for “running state of the sport.”
With your computer, tablet, or smartphone, you can also listen direct to “Running: State of the Sport” at the below internet links.
"Running: State of the Sport" is brought to you by MarathonHandbook.com and RunLongRunHealthy.com. Marathon Handbook is the world’s leading marathon website, with a special focus on trustworthy running information and free, runner-tested training plans for all ability levels.
Run Long, Run Healthy is Amby’s weekly newsletter with the newest, most scientific, and most useful training advice for runners.
Audio engineering by BJ McGeever.