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Shorter won the U.S. national cross-country championships four times (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973). He was the U.S. Olympic Trials Champion in both the 10,000-meter run and the marathon in both 1972 and 1976. He also won both the 10,000-meter and the marathon at the 1971 Pan American Games. Shorter was a four-time winner of the Fukuoka Marathon (1971, 1972, 1973, 1974). He was successful on the road racing circuit as well, winning the Peachtree Road Race in 1977 and the Falmouth Road Race in 1975 and 1976.
Shorter won his greatest recognition, however, as a marathon runner, and is the only American athlete to win two medals in the Olympic marathon event. Shorter won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, after finishing fifth in the Olympic 10,000-meter final. He received the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States afterward. He won the silver medal in the marathon at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada, finishing second behind previously unheralded gold medalist Waldemar Cierpinski of East Germany.
Shorter was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 1984 and the USA National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1989.