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The fastest 600 runner in the world sat at a bar in downtown San Jose last Friday night, staring moodily into a half-empty glass of tomato juice, his fourth, and trying to decide if he should get up the next day, put on a pair of short pants and run 440 yards. Now that may not sound like much of a decision to make. But when you've only got one sound leg, and the guy you're running against is Lee Evans, and you've been telling people how you can beat him at any distance, it comes a little hard. Martin McGrady sighed. "Sometimes I wish I had never set a world record," he said. "Sometimes I wish I could move to a foreign country where nobody had ever heard of me and just be Martin McGrady, the guy across the street who works in a factory someplace. That would be real nice. No more problems."
The man sitting next to him, a Scotch drinker, shook his head. "You're kidding. You think factory workers don't have problems?"
McGrady grunted. "I guess so. I know I would. I always have all kinds of problems. I make them for myself."
And he had made this latest one, and it was a dilly. All winter he had been king of the indoor meets, frustrating Evans in every 600, breaking the world record three times. Then the pair had been matched in the 440, Evans' distance, in last Saturday's San Jose Invitational. McGrady had taken a month off at the end of the indoor season and was slowly working his way back into peak form. Three weeks ago his coach, Brooks Johnson of Sports International, sent him to run with the club's mile-relay team at a small meet in Virginia.
"There wasn't much competition." said Johnson. "And he was going to run the second leg, the easiest leg. It was just a low-key workout."
The day was cold, gray, windy. McGrady felt stiff as he watched the field get ready for a 100-yard dash. Then he thought, hey, that looks like fun. He was pulling off his warmup clothes as he came out of the stands. "I want to run," he said. "Swell," said the promoter. He ran—for 30 yards. Then the hamstring in his left thigh went. Beautiful.
"I couldn't believe it." said Johnson. "No, that's not true. I could believe it. He's such a highly intelligent guy. Yet he's so naive, so simpleminded in some areas you wouldn't believe it."
Despite the injury, McGrady said he still wanted to race Evans at San Jose. Johnson told him to forget it. "Go out and try jogging," said the coach. McGrady tried, couldn't. Lang Stanley, the assistant athletic director at San Jose State, who was in charge of the invitational, called. Johnson told him the bad news. "Oh, no," said Stanley. "Are you sure?" Johnson said yes, but told Stanley to call him the Tuesday before the meet to make certain. Last Monday, hoping for a miracle, Stanley wrote McGrady a check for $413 to cover his expenses. He mailed the check and returned to his office. Ten minutes later McGrady opened the door and walked in.
Stanley stared at him. "What are you doing out here?"
"I'm here to run," McGrady said. "The leg is fine."