Cram, the son of a police constable in Jarrow, just down the Tyne from Newcastle, and an extremely distant relative of Baron Gottfried von Cramm, the German tennis star of the '30s, is warm and funny. "I just...well, I'm sorry to be so predictable," he said, discussing tactics. His primary goal for the year is to go undefeated, "and I'm not going to duck, dive or skip, or ask promoters to keep people out of races."
On two points Cram was adamant. When asked the inevitable question about man's ultimate limit in the mile, he spoke with force. "There are no limits. Everyone will just keep improving."
Why improvement should occur so dramatically at Bislett, whose Rekortan track is no different from the one in the Los Angeles Coliseum, is one of the sport's great questions. Factors abound. The nearly 20,000 fans who press into Bislett are the most knowledgeable anywhere, and because the track has only six lanes, the rhythmic pounding and chanting roar right into a runner's ear. The weather tends to be cool and still, as it was Saturday, and races can be run long into the Northern twilight.
Oslo is a city that endures its raw, dark winters by yearning for these endless midsummer days. This is when gratification is deferred no longer. When the mile was scheduled for 11:26 p.m. to accommodate ABC's telecast to the U.S., former Oslo meet director Arne Haukvik remarked, "Du skal ikke sove bort sommernatta." "You shouldn't sleep away the summer nights."
When a whole city peaks, it carries the runners along, as happened with Kristiansen. To reach the U.S.S.R.'s Olga Bondarenko's world record in the 10,000 of 31:13.78, Kristiansen, who already had the world record in the 5,000 and the world best in the marathon, had to run each lap in 75 seconds. She started with an 80, easing along in the pack. "I was afraid of the 10,000," she said. "I was afraid of going too fast at the beginning."
That was an oddly timid remark from an adventuresome, tough woman. She was a cross-country skier on Norway's Winter Olympic team in 1976. In early 1983, her running grew inexplicably weak. After a bad race at the world cross-country championships, she went in for a checkup and learned she was five months pregnant. "Well, that explains a lot," she said. Her son, Gaute, will be two years old next week.
After seven laps, Kristiansen was right on pace. By 5,000 meters, covered in 15:34.45, she had shed all competition. For eight laps in a row, her times were between 74.3 and 75 flat.
She sprinted the final stretch with her eyes fixed on the clock. At the end, she leaned desperately and barely broke 31 minutes, with 30:59.42, a huge 14.36 seconds lower than Bondarenko's record.
After a victory lap so exultant that she was keeping pace with women who were still racing, Kristiansen, who is from Oslo, was pushed to the awards stand and interviewed over the stadium sound system. "It's the crowd. It's the crowd," she laughed.
If there was anyone whom the crowd could not lift, it would have seemed to be Aouita, 24. The Olympic 5,000-meter champion was in fine form—he had almost beaten Cram in the world record 1,500 in Nice—but he had had a hideous week. His father-in-law had been killed in a traffic accident in Casablanca on Wednesday. And for three days he had been sick. "I felt bad in my stomach," he said. "Today I didn't eat. Only fluids."