By Cameron Stracher
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25.00, 240 pages
Kings of the Road promised to be an exciting look at the running boom in the U.S., which arrived in 1972 and lasted a year and a decade. It’s advertised as a look at the decade through the eyes of three major American runners of the time – Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers and Alberto Salazar. Unfortunately, none of the three main characters (all of whom were interviewed by the author) comes to life. And Cameron Stracher seems to have gone out of his way to perpetuate stereotypes about the three.
Shorter’s the intelligent, calculating figure; Rodgers is the intellectually lightweight member of the band – Ringo, if you will; and Salazar’s the brooding, antisocial, troubled Latino-American. It all comes off as dry, a bit lifeless and another road trip over territory that’s been well covered before. (In contrast, John Brant’s Duel in the Sun, about the 1982 New York City Marathon, is near-essential reading for runners.)
“Shorter, Rodgers, and Salazar all ran at a time when the hunger for achievement coexisted with real hunger. The two complemented each other, perhaps more than money ever could.”
Most troubling is the conclusion, in which Stracher over-intellectualizes running. It’s not rocket science, or only rock ’n’ roll even. It’s getting outside and placing one foot in front of the other for a few miles, and not a whole lot more.
Reviewed by Joseph Arellano