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The idea was to split open the fascia or sheath around the restricted muscles to allow them to expand. Moorcroft watched Eamonn Coghlan of Ireland win the 1981 World Cup 5,000 on TV while having his legs shaved for the operation.
It worked. By Christmas he was running like a child again.
There were other influences in Moorcroft's early career besides parents and Olympic dreams and injury. For one, he was always a club runner, and the club was the Coventry Godiva Harriers, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1979. In 1964, when Moorcroft was 11, two Godiva runners, Basil Heatley and Brian Kilby, placed second and fourth for Great Britain in the Tokyo Olympic marathon. Another, Bill Adcocks, was fifth in the 1968 Olympic marathon, won the Fukuoka marathon and still holds the course record for the Athens marathon.
Adcocks was famous for his 22-mile Sunday run in Coventry. An impressionable junior runner then, Moorcroft remembers the time marathon world-record holder Derek Clayton of Australia, who was outspoken in his insistence that he trained harder than any man who ever lived, showed up one Sunday. Adcocks ran him into the ground. "I wanted to be a marathoner," says Moorcroft.
Adcocks is a jovial spirit, a teacher at Coventry Technical College and still active in Godiva club affairs. He walks the visitor to The Butts, the 386-yard, beige cinder track with rather square corners near the college. "It's what I call an all-weather track," says Adcocks. "It's not very good regardless of the weather."
Adcocks believes that Moorcroft benefited from the English tradition of club training, which can provide a stable environment for decades, much longer, obviously, than a college athletic scholarship. "There is a philosophy that comes with it," he says, "the club run on Sunday, the sense of mutual support and of taking advantage of something as it comes, not trying to force it. You see that in David."
And there is something passed on from good runner to potential good runner, something ineffable but communicable, about possibilities. "When I learned what he had done," says Adcocks, "I told all the lads, 'You know that 14 miles you did with David on Sunday? You were part of his final preparation for the world 5,000-meter record.' And the next Sunday he was back with them again."
Adcocks conducts a little tour of Coventry's compact city center, showing off the new cathedral beside the red sandstone ruin of the old, bombed in World War II. Nearby, St. Mary's Hall has been the center of city functions since the 1300s.
"We're having a dinner there for David on Saturday," he says. "You know, I wasn't genuinely surprised that he did it. But I was amazed at how he did it. From the front. He's never been that way. He's always waited and kicked. That's the thing to ask. What made him go so wonderfully mad?"
It is a 10-mile drive to Nuneaton, a borough of 113,000. Moorcroft is taking the visitor to meet John Anderson, who has been in charge of his training for 14 years, since David was 15.