"I give it until 1987-88," said the Prophet. "Then it's all over."
The conversation had moved on to other things, including religion, arms control, fakery, parapsychology, Alice in Wonderland, amyl nitrate, Edward Teller and magic mushrooms. The Prophet of Doom was interested that Larry worked with nuclear scientists.
"How is the morale at the plant?" he asked.
"Well, the janitors and the handymen are pretty good," Larry said. "The scientists are fairly disgruntled."
That is how it is with big companies, thought Chadwick. He once had worked for a large corporation. One day he walked into his office to discover that his desk was missing. He thought he had been replaced either with a computer or by a computer. He never found out which. Now Chadwick worked for himself, selling commercial life insurance, and he was trying to be laid back.
Chadwick tuned in to Spino's introductory talk again. "We're going to work on becoming much more conscious when we run so that we're able to observe our minds," Spino was saying. "Your workouts will become sort of a running meditation. There has been a lot of research done in other countries, especially Russia, on using the mind in sport. Basically, we'll give you three modules: running, flexibility and mental. We'll teach you different gaits and breathing techniques, give you some exercises for stretching and show you how to look at your mind and work with it."
Spino is a handsome man with dark curly hair, a smooth, untroubled face and a lithe body tuned by endless miles of running. His teachings, he told the class, were influenced by two renowned coaches: Hungary's Mihaly Igloi, whom he studied under a decade ago, and Percy Cerutty of Australia, whom Spino thinks of as the "first mystical athletic coach." Cerutty was the Jack LaLanne of his country; he lifted weights in store windows and ran 100 miles in 24 hours at the age of 50. He coached Herb Elliott in 1958 when the 19-year-old future Olympic 1,500-meter champion broke the world mile record in a stunning 3:54.5. Until he died in 1975 at the age of 80, Cerutty taught his runners to mimic the style and gaits of animals, even to bare their teeth and snarl. He claimed the locked elbow of Western athletes was the symbol of lack of creativity. Spino's dream is to incorporate the teachings and research of Igloi and Cerutty with his own and to open a training center where serious athletes can work out 12 months a year.
Meanwhile, Chadwick was focusing in on a pretty girl with frizzy blonde hair. She caught him staring at her. He quickly looked away and, in the style of people when they are caught gaping, suddenly looked back in her direction, this time training his eyes on the wall above her head. He sat like this for several minutes, wondering how long he would have to keep his head turned sideways. He was getting a definite crick in his neck.
Spino asked someone to turn off the light. He was going to take the group through a meditation. This produced anxiety in Chadwick, who never had become proficient at meditating. He never found a mantra he could get behind. Spino's voice took on a droning, caressing quality. He wanted the students to go back as far as they could in their minds and to remember their first athletic experience. After a few minutes, Chad-wick's fears intensified. His stomach was giving off rumbling sounds from all of those vegetables at dinner. In the silent room it sounded like an 18-wheeler gearing down for a hill. Presently he became aware of another sound. Someone was snoring. He opened his eyes just enough so that he could see through his lashes. It was the older man who was with his wife. She gave him a sharp jab with her elbow.
Next the members of the class discussed their meditations. One woman recalled how she had practiced to be a cheerleader in high school. The night before the tryout she worked long and hard on her spins and jumps. The following day, however, she was so sore she could hardly move. She felt humiliated. It was one of her last dalliances with sport. Chadwick talked of a similar troubling episode. He had recently parked his bike outside a Manhattan office building, chaining it to a stand and taking his front wheel with him. When he had returned 10 minutes later, his bicycle was gone. He stood there, holding his front wheel. "I felt like Peter Sellers," he said.