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Moses looks at his ever-present watch and times his pulse. He mentions that he has studied video tapes of his Olympic race and has counted a total of at least .8 of a second worth of mistakes. "I was raggedy, real raggedy at Montreal," he says. "My arms came away from my sides; some of my leg follow-throughs were bad. I'm still learning this race." His goals now are to win the intermediates at the World Cup in August, to win a gold medal at the Moscow Olympics and to drop his world record below 47.0. "I could run 46.5 with somebody pushing me," he adds. "But even if they don't, if I get into my pattern and execute properly, the time will take care of itself."
Unlike the sprints or the flat 400, the intermediate hurdles is a race that requires a precise pattern. Even minor mistakes tend to be compounded, so that by the 10th, and final, hurdle many competitors find themselves hopelessly, sometimes painfully, out of sync.
Moses cleans his prescription sunglasses, the ones that give him a malevolent look in photos and that of late have been occasionally replaced by contact lenses, and points to the far turn of the track. "That's where runners start to lose it, on the sixth hurdle," he says. "The first five are nothing, really, because you're not fatigued yet. The far turn is the Twilight Zone." To build his endurance Moses runs cross-country. As a result he has strength as well as natural speed—he has been caught in 44.1 for a leg of a 4 x 400 relay—to run his race without the hesitations that plague lesser hurdlers.
He begins loping down the track, still in his sweats, taking slow, gigantic, high-rising strides—another martial-arts exercise, one suspects. He has placed only the last five hurdles on the track, and he clears these effortlessly, still in stride, like a man jumping over a series of teacups. Only when Moses crosses the finish line does one realize how quickly he has gotten from here back to here—"50.5," he says, consulting his watch. A few minutes later he runs another lap in the identical time.
But this is no exotic exercise; it is Moses' regular hurdle pattern, these odd, bounding, unvarying 9'9" strides. In fact, his ability to take precisely 13 steps between each pair of hurdles is the key to his success. Most good intermediate hurdlers, such as James Walker of Auburn and Harald Schmid of West Germany, take 13 to 15 strides. Glenn Davis, the 1956 and 1960 Olympic champion, began his career taking 13 strides through the first six hurdles and 17 the rest of the way. Later he set a world record with 15 all the way. Some hurdlers have no set pattern and simply lapse into chaos when fatigue sets in. Moses is the only world-class hurdler ever to use 13 steps the whole race.
Amazingly, he is now talking about taking only 12 strides. "Actually, 13 makes me run tight," he says. "Twelve steps means using about a 10'3" stride, which I can do. I already did 12 steps in a meet once, by mistake." He gives his dark chuckle. "But nobody noticed."
On a recent visit to Disneyland, just down the road from his apartment in Fullerton, Moses settled into a small cart with an acquaintance to take a ride through The Haunted Mansion. The lights went out, a ghostly voice issued forth, the car's safety bar closed automatically and Moses screamed. The ghost hadn't terrified him; his knees had been smashed by the safety bar. Indeed, Edwin's disproportionately long legs—at 37" they constitute more than half his 6'1�" height—are another reason for his transcendent excellence in his event. His natural stride carries him easily over the 36" hurdles. "I guess I have about the perfect body for my race," he says.
Most observers agree that the only person who could now give Moses a serious test in the intermediates is the 110-meter high-hurdles world-record holder, Renaldo Nehemiah. Nehemiah-himself has given no indication that he's interested, but he has run a 44.3 400-meter leg in a relay. The thought of the two swift, long-legged runners going head-to-head is tantalizing.
For his part, Moses has done quite well in the 110-meter highs and the 400 meters, when he has chosen to run them. In 1977 he was ranked 14th and 15th in the world, respectively, in those events, in addition to being No. 1 in the intermediates, thereby becoming the only athlete ever to be ranked in the top 15 in those three events.
Back in Dayton, where he grew up as the second of Mr. and Mrs. Irving Moses' three sons, Moses excelled at all sports. He was an all-star catcher in Little League; a rough, if skinny, defensive back in high school football; a flashy guard in basketball. A remarkable leaper, he could dunk when he was only 5'8". Today he can kick a basketball rim with his foot. "In high school, Shades [as Moses was then known] could come down and slam on you as easy as the Doctor," recalls Winston Lindsey, a fellow student at Fairview High and now a hurdler at Long Beach State.