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Waitz herself seemed to be exploring strange parts of the road. She ran near the white center line, not always taking the shortest route through the incessant turns. "She knows to use the whole road," said Jack Waitz, mystified. Often Larrieu Smith and Cunha, the only contenders left, would be yards to her flank, hugging the rail, while Waitz ran in solitary, wasteful splendor on the crown of the road. "I think she just doesn't care," said Jack Waitz. "She's been too much alone in races."
"I think Grete ran twice as far as I did," said Larrieu Smith, exaggerating, delighted to accept this gift. The weather, too, worked in her favor. "The heat was good for me," she said. "It's been in the 80s the last month in Texas." She knew that the longer she stayed at Waitz's elbow, the more sure she could be of kicking past for the victory. Indeed, she had outsprinted Waitz in a 3,000-meter race on the track a week earlier, at the Bruce Jenner meet in San Jose.
Cunha grudgingly fell back 20 yards at five miles. She would be third in 32:45. So now it was just Waitz and Larrieu Smith, fighting it out under the maples. "I love the park," said Larrieu Smith. "And the crowd was important, even if they were all cheering for Grete."
Waitz's arms showed her strain. Larrieu Smith, tan and taut, was nostalgically light-footed. With a half mile to go, she found herself in front by 10 yards. "I didn't speed up. I just cut a corner better," she said. Waitz was awkward with fatigue, but she forced herself back up to Larrieu Smith with 100 yards to go. Then Larrieu Smith exploded.
"You get me within sight of a finish line, and I'll find something in the legs," she said. She won, arms upraised, by 15 yards in 32:23. Waitz followed in 32:26, and after a few minutes' recovery seemed relieved. "Francie ran smarter than I did," Waitz said. "I'm only human."
Larrieu Smith had clung to just that thought. "Nobody is superhuman, no matter how many times they beat you," she said.
Larrieu Smith took in the spectacle at the end more patiently than the one before the start. She watched some of the 5,542 finishers pound wetly across the line to receive 5,542 medals. In the Sheep Meadow, she saw hundreds of men with baby strollers and hundreds of small children asking where their mothers were. Later, those same children would scatter about New York, like balloons throughout a geometric sky, all wearing medals on bright ribbons.
"This is wonderful," said Larrieu Smith. "I wonder if I shouldn't have come over to this whole new world a long time ago." It was idle speculation, for her race had shown that there is world enough, and time.