It's not every day a group of high school runners is able to probe the mind of an Olympic gold and silver medalist.
On Tuesday afternoon, several members of the Juneau-Douglas High School cross-country running team had that opportunity, as they picked up some pointers from Frank Shorter, the 1972 Olympic gold medalist and 1976 silver medalist in the marathon.
"It was really inspiring," JDHS senior William Horton said. "I liked the way he presented things. Like he said, when it's called a 'fun run' that means you want to have fun."
"He was really nice, letting us have a chance to talk to him," added JDHS sophomore Tristan Knutson-Lombardo. "He just wanted to be the best. We're inspired now for our meet Friday in Sitka. It'll be interesting to see how we do."
Shorter was in Juneau on Tuesday as part of a Runner's World magazine-sponsored cruise. He and about 100 other runners on the cruise - including magazine publisher George Hirsch and columnists Bart Yasso, John "The Penguin" Bingham and Liz Applegate - met up with local members of the Southeast Road Runners club shortly after their cruise ship, the Norwegian Sky, docked in Juneau. SERR members took the cruise runners on a couple of guided runs - some to Thane and others up Perseverance Trail.
"It was tough," Shorter joked about his run up Perseverance. "We were thinking if the first 3 1/2 miles are going to be like this (holding his right arm up at a 60-degree angle), we're going to be in trouble. But we finished along the Flume coming into town, and that was fun. What I like about this cruise is you don't have to feel like a total tourist."
"He said the best thing about this cruise is he gets to meet the locals," JDHS senior Phoebe Rohrbacher said.
While about 40 of the cruise runners were finding their way around Perseverance Trail, the high school runners ran interval drills along Basin Road. The Crimson Bears were finishing their interval runs as the cruise runners came off the trail, with both groups meeting at a water station. The Crimson Bears were introduced to Shorter, who agreed to meet them later near the ship.
During their second meeting, Shorter let the Crimson Bears ask him questions after he told them he liked seeing the young runners doing interval drills.
"He said to train for any distance," JDHS senior Chris Frank said. "He was promoting running. He said it's not an elitist sport."
"I liked his attitude - he just wanted to run fast," JDHS senior Heidi Denton said. "He talked about he could run the mile as well as the marathon."
Shorter told the young runners they should train for short distances as well as their longer, main race events. He said his training for the mile helped him win his marathon gold medal, because when the marathon pace slowed about nine miles into the 26.2-mile race he picked up his pace. Shorter ran a 4-minute, 33-second ninth mile, and that broke up the field so it never recovered.
"I want to be able to run my shortest and my longest races," said Shorter, who added that his fastest mile time was a 4:02. "This way you're used to having the faster legs. When I ran a 4:33 for my ninth mile, it was because I'd trained for the mile. I don't think a lot of the other runners had run the mile all year. It got them out of their comfort zone. The fastest people have an advantage."
"I liked the way he applied it," JDHS junior Tim Davin said. "None of us have done marathons before, and the most a couple of us have done is the (14-mile) Windfall Lake Trail Challenge. He related it to distances we know."
Shorter, who is the chairman of the newly created U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, also spoke to the Crimson Bears about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs. The agency was established in October 2000 to run the national drug testing and education programs for all of the USA's Olympic, Pan Am Games and Paralympic sports organizations, and to get the testing programs out of the hands of the individual sports organizations.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.