Moses soon concentrated on track because of difficulties with coaches in the
other sports. "I always felt so frustrated having somebody else make a
judgment about my talent," he says. "But in track, if you can beat
everybody to the tape, nobody can disturb you."
Both of Moses'
parents are educators—Irving is an elementary school principal, Gladys is a
curriculum supervisor for the Dayton public school system—and the Moses
household has always been filled with books. In a rare twist to the usual
superstar story, Edwin began serious reading long before he began serious
training. At age seven he started in on a multivolume children's encyclopedia
and continued till he reached Z.
In grade school
he built volcanoes, dissected frogs, collected fossils, launched homemade
rockets. As a treat, he was allowed to go to school every summer for extra
courses in math and science. "I hung out at the playground like the rest of
the kids," he says, "but I did a lot of academic hanging out,
After high school
Edwin attended tiny (enrollment 1,650) Morehouse on an academic scholarship. He
chose the predominantly black school because of its high academic rating and
prestige—its alumni include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Julian Bond and Atlanta
Mayor Maynard Jackson. But there is little in the way of athletic tradition at
Morehouse, and Moses had to drive off campus to get to a practice track.
"It wasn't a problem, though," he says. " Morehouse was such a
historical place. It was like going to Harvard."
process hasn't stopped with his move to California. While driving his 1966
Plymouth to a recent practice, Moses spotted a three-foot-long king snake by
the side of the road. Backing up carefully, he stopped next to the snake and
watched as it glided across the hot pavement. Edwin said nothing, but his eyes
focused sharply, his brow furrowed and something—perhaps the slip angle of the
snake's slithering progress across the highway—was analyzed and stored.
Far from being
idle, eggheaded theorizing, Moses' physics training has a direct application to
his running. "I'm constantly making adjustments because of my knowledge of
physics," he says. "Coaches, for instance, tell me I have too much
backkick. But I know that the tighter the angle between the calf and the thigh,
the less angular momentum. You need to get the leg forward. I've given seminars
on this. With some high-speed cameras and all the angles measured, I think I
could write out formulas to explain the whole thing."
self-contained—a hurdling automaton—and there are those who think this could be
debilitating, who believe such self-reliance is dangerous. Dick Hill, the track
coach at San Diego State and a hurdling authority, is one of those critics.
unique in his maturity," he says. "He is a smooth-flowing machine. But
you have to wonder what he'd be like if all of a sudden there's a guy with him
on the eighth hurdle. Who knows, he might run 46 or he might tie up. An
individual without a coach is totally in charge of his destiny. I'm just a firm
believer that everybody needs someone."
Moses shakes his
head. He's thought about this a lot. "Coaches and track clubs have nothing
to offer me," he says. "This is like a hobby. You don't have to share a
hobby with somebody else."
At the Mt. San
Antonio Relays on a sunny Saturday afternoon in April, Moses sits alone in the
shade. The meet is something of a homecoming for him because he hasn't run in a
major American meet in nearly two years, since his world-record performance at
the '77 AAUs. Various illnesses and a lingering defiance have kept him