In 1980, I purchased a book titled The Sweet Spot In Time by John Jerome. This is the review it gets on Amazon.com these days.
“Updated and with a new preface, this classic guide to the art and physiology of sports identifies and demystifies the series of mind and body events that create athletic perfection. With wit and keen intelligence, John Jerome explains how any athlete in any sport achieves those special peak moments. Packed with wonderful anecdotes from the world of athletics and endorsed by coaches, The Sweet Spot in Time explores the essence of excellence and offers powerful clues to improved sports performance.”
I don’t know if John Jerome is even alive anymore, but his book inspired me to think about the connection between brain and body. I was 23 years old in 1980, and about to embark on a life after college. My running career at Luther College had been fun and productive, but who knows what came next?
The book sought to make a link between the physiology and psychology of sports. At the time, there was also lots of speculation about the mystical side of endurance sports. The running boom was just getting its second wind after the opening burst of Frank Shorter’s 1972 success in the Olympic Marathon. And let’s consider for a moment what that really meant. Shorter won Olympic Gold in 1972 and placed second to an East German doper (seen here in the white singlet behind the blue Finn, Lasse Viren) in 1976. So by rights, Shorter was a two-time Olympic marathon champ. Who else can say that? No other runner but Abebe Bikila has achieved such honors.
That was Shorter’s Sweet Spot in Time. But frankly his glory was stolen from him, twice. The first time he won the Olympic marathon some doughboy fake looking for thrills ran into the stadium ahead of Shorter. The crowd thought they were greeting the winner, and cheered. When the willowy figure of Frank Shorter trotted into the stadium there was not the same roar that he should have earned.
Shorter had perfectly timed his Sweet Spot in Time to provide the ultimate in athletic experiences. Winning the Olympic Marathon is a dream of millions of runners. Yet even when Shorter accomplished that feat, twice, the world with all its confused desires and cheating ways conspired to steal that Sweet Spot from the man that had earned it.
Perhaps that’s what we might call a Bittersweet Spot In Time.
Frank Shorter still made a success of himself beyond the Olympics. His clothing line was quite popular through the 1990s when he sold it to some other company. I still miss the silvery gear bag I owned. It bore the familiar logo with multiple images of Frank Shorter on its side. That bag traveled with me to dozens of races in the first half of the 1980s. I also owned a Frank Shorter nylon running suit that was stolen from me in a car robbery in St. Paul, Minnesota back in 1980. The thieves also stole my Olympus OM-1 camera and a deerskin art portfolio.
Those were losses indeed. But it’s obvious the world wants us to remember that all things are ephemeral. Even Olympic glory.