All agree that Dave Sime is a marvelous young physiological specimen with superbly functioning muscles and sinews and bones. Even more fascinating to mere mortals is the trail of determination and denial required to produce such a superman in spikes. For underneath, like anyone else, Dave Sime is a complex human being.
In part, he is a normal, healthy college student who sometimes fails to study as hard as he should; a boy who dates and dances and admits to a mild mania for bop music, who likes to play a slightly discordant trumpet in the sanctity of his dormitory room or hit a bucket of golf balls at the driving range. He eats a lot and sleeps a lot and wanders around the Duke campus dressed in a sweater and slacks and loafers. He grins back happily at the hundreds who stop to chat or yell "Hi, Dave," in a way they did not do a year ago. And he is still amazed—and somewhat embarrassed—by his sudden fame. But he is also equipped with vast ambitions, a strange streak of stubbornness and a mind which can be startling in its depth.
Understanding Dave Sime means understanding his race and how he met and conquered its problems. The 100 may lack the wonderful tactics of the mile, but it is definitely not "just digging." It is a brief explosion of power under delicate, split-second control and there is no margin for error, there is no fourth lap or final turn in which to correct an earlier mistake. In Sime's own words, "You blink once and six guys go by you."
Dave has been handicapped by his size at the point where every race must begin. "He has wonderful reflexes and is very quick for a big man," says Red Lewis, "but the reach and power so valuable to him in the last 40 yards of a race remain a definite handicap in the first 40." So Sime still works hardest on his start. Some of those who saw him run indoors still think that his start is poor, but actually it is not only no longer weak, it is very good indeed. "He has never been a slow starter," Lewis points out, "only—on occasion—a late starter. Those occasions are now rare."
The second part of the 100 is the acceleration period, which begins out about 15 yards from the blocks. "This, we think," says Chambers, "is the strongest part of Dave's race. At first we had to get him to come up smoothly from his low starting position into his normal running position without too abrupt a change and a resultant loss in balance. At the same time he had to learn to complete a transfer from the hard, driving mechanics of the start to the relaxed stride which is his natural way of running.
"It wasn't easy," the coach adds, "but now he does it better than anyone I've ever seen. His acceleration—right there—is what wins races."
Learning the remainder was less of a physical problem than a mental one. Sime was a natural sprinter with great speed; he only needed to learn how to use it. So Chambers and Lewis and Shankle kept harping on relaxation and balanced running until Dave discovered that what they said was so.
"I found out," he says, "that like a lot of runners I had more power than I could use; you let it get out of control and you wobble all over the track and tie up and run a poor race. And you get beat. So I worked on running with everything under control; I just tried to stay nice and loose and at the same time run as hard as I could. It sounds difficult, but it is really simple once you find it out for yourself. Actually it was the hardest lesson I had to learn—and once I learned, the easiest to do."
But even more than the ability to accept coaching, Sime had something else; a belief that despite everything he was born with and anything others could do to help him he must do the greatest part all by himself. And because of this, early in his freshman year, he began to experiment.
He read every book he could get on sprinting. He talked to other runners and coaches. He tried running up the high concrete steps of Duke Stadium and, upon awakening the next day with sore, complaining muscles, decided that this was not only not bad but very good. If those muscles were sore, he hadn't been using them enough and this was the way to develop them. So he ran up the stadium steps some more. He put weights on his feet and, lying on his back, bicycled furiously, always concentrating on keeping his feet and legs revolving in that perfect plane which, to Dave, meant the perfect running stride.