Kings of the Road is the story of running in its golden age in America, its rise in popularity and growth told through the lens of one race—the Falmouth Road Race. From 1973 to 1982 Falmouth was dominated by three men—Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and the youthful Alberto Salazar—who rose from obscurity to become national heroes.
Falmouth was the brainchild of Tommy Leonard, an eccentric bartender from Boston, and high school coach John Carroll. On Leonard’s fortieth birthday, August 15, 1973, the first “Falmouth marathon” was run at twelve noon—a seven mile race between two bars in Cape Cod. There were 93 participants. In 1976, just the fourth running of the race, Shorter, Rodgers, and Salazar lined up among more than two thousand runners officially registered for Falmouth. (Another five hundred would run unofficially.) The running boom was well underway.
Frank Shorter’s 1972 Olympic medal had sparked America’s love affair with running and introduced the sport to the Reagan generation optimistic about “morning again in America.” Just a few years later, in 1975 Bill Rodgers would became the first American to run a marathon under 2:10 and is still the only runner to win both the New York City and Boston Marathons four times. And in 1981, Alberto Salazar set a world record, running the New York City Marathon in 2:08:13.
In Shorter, Rodgers, and Salazar, Stracher’s narrative finds its conflict and drama. Like the races they ran, the story is compelling and fast paced. Shorter is the veteran, Rodgers the challenger, and Salazar the student eager to surpass his mentors. Their exploits weave the fabric of this narrative as they rewrite record books and inspire a whole generation to lace up their running shoes for the first time.