"I think the altitude is getting to Marie," said Mills.
Though the Little Olympics passed relatively unnoticed in Mexico City, enough interest was generated to bring 9,000 spectators out to University Stadium last Saturday. Two things seemed to attract the crowd: the sight of pretty girls running around in shorts, a prospect that arouses the track fan hidden deep in the Latin temperament, and the chance to see Mills and Australia's Ron Clarke go at each other in the 5,000 meters. Clarke, wearing a faded green shirt emblazoned with a boomerang, was more concerned with testing his reaction to the altitude than with winning. "When I was training earlier this week," he said, "I didn't feel anything at first. Ahh, but the second time was absolutely shocking. As a matter of fact, I didn't even finish what I started out to do. All this is a matter of time, isn't it?"
"You begin to acclimate," explained Dr. Hanley, "by first burning off the excess bicarbonate in your system. Then you start building more blood cells and hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying factor in red blood cells."
Mills, like Clarke, had slight interest in the outcome of the race. "I shouldn't run unless I feel fit," he said, "but, after all, this is part of an experiment. So I guess the thing to do is stick to it."
It was more a display of gallantry than a race. Mahomed Gammoudi of Tunisia, in a final, tired burst, beat Clarke and finished first in 14:40.6, which was a huge minute and 15 seconds off Clarke's world record. Mills, gasping for air, fell farther and farther behind with each lap and finished fifth in 15:10.2.
"This guy is a real man," Dr. Hanley said as he waited to take Mills's pulse. "He's genuinely sick, yet he's running."
"There'll be other days," Mills said. "I hate to lose a race. Oh, how I hate to lose one. But this was for the doctors."
Doctors are fine, but when the athletes reassemble in Mexico City in 1968 there will be no substitute for the adrenalin that actual competition will pump into those blood streams. Mario Tovar, the Mexican swimming team's trainer, sitting in his little poolside office last week with his feet on the desk, summed it up. "Aww, I don't know," he mused. "If everybody was the same, then everybody would be—the same, you see? And then we wouldn't have to hold the Olympics, no?"