He broke away at mile 13, only to be caught with a mile to go
January 2, 2012
In the 1984 U.S. Olympic trials marathon Buffalo, N.Y., I ran through 10
miles at 2:12 pace towards the back of a pack of about 40 guys. Shortly
thereafter, the pack was forming into several groups of about 10 runners each
and I made a conscious decision to move up to the second group. That felt
comfortable so I continued the effort and caught the 11-man lead pack including
Alberto Salazar, Greg Meyer, Bill Rodgers, Tony Sandoval, Dean Matthews, Dave
Gordon and others by 13 miles.
After several minutes I realized I was holding back so drifted to the front and joined another runner with a small lead. I picked up the pace moderately and suddenly had about a 40 yard lead. At that point I had to decide whether to ease back into the pack or break away on my own, and figured my best shot of making the Olympic team was to forge ahead, and drop some guys to improve my odds.
The other runners were looking at each other, and the big guns like Alberto figured they could reel me in whenever they wanted, so I continued to run about 4:58 to 5:02 per mile while the pack was running a few seconds slower. My lead was about 30 seconds at 22 miles when John Tuttle and Salazar and a few of the others made a decisive move to drop each other and catch me.
At 25 miles, Tuttle and Salazar caught me and I wondered whether the whole pack was there and would I be the foolish guy who ran by himself for 12 miles only to be swallowed up. I hung on to John and Alberto for dear life and did not look back. Alberto got about 40 yards ahead and John was 15 yards ahead, when things turned in my favor. Those guys were tired, having just run 3 miles at 4:50 per mile while I was running about 5.01 per mile. John looked back and saw that he could run it in to the finish and make the team. I was running scared and got a tremendous lift when I passed John to move into second.
By picking it up to drop John, I made up a bit of ground on Alberto and looked ahead and saw the finish line. Still focused on not getting passed but also sensing I could challenge Alberto, I wound up to a sprint. The U.S. Marine Band and cheering spectators ensured Alberto did not know I was there until it was too late to respond and I passed him with about 40 yards to go to win the race and qualify for the U.S. Olympic team.