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Miles To Go Before They Sleep...
Kenny Moore
February 28, 1983
...and a promise to keep in Cleveland. Eamonn Coghlan and Steve Scott raced in San Diego, then flew all night to meet again
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February 28, 1983

Miles To Go Before They Sleep...

...and a promise to keep in Cleveland. Eamonn Coghlan and Steve Scott raced in San Diego, then flew all night to meet again

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By contrast, there can be no more robust soul than Carl Lewis. The indoor sprint (6.02 for the 60 yards) and long jump (28'1") world-record holder was supremely animated in San Diego, but he faced a dilemma. If he jumped from a board far enough from the pit to give him a safe landing, his approach run would have to begin up on the sloping curve of the track. If he fit the whole run on the runway, he had to jump from a board so close to the pit that a record jump would likely drop him onto the elbowing packs of photographers who dog his every move. "But a run from a slope is just too unpredictable," he said. He asked to jump from the closer takeoff board. His fourth jump was 27'9½", and he couldn't have gone 28 without cracking his heels into the wooden frame of the pit. So he jumped 27'9½" again, sandblasting the lenses of the photographers one more time. Asked if a natural, though perhaps subconscious, concern for his life had prevented him from really uncoiling one, Lewis correctly replied, "Well, if it was subconscious, how would I know about it?" Then he said he was so excited by his form that he would double in the jump and sprint in this week's TAC Championships in New York City.

In that spirit, Scott and Coghlan jogged to their hotel for fast showers and were on their way to the airport by the time Billy Olson barely dislodged the pole-vault bar with his side, missing a world-record 19'¾". The milers had another appointment in Cleveland the following afternoon, a "Dream Mile" organized by the International Management Group and sold to ABC. Never mind that the Coliseum track is notoriously slow, or that Cleveland crowds have never embraced the sport. Or even, as Scott and Coghlan would discover, that you almost can't get to Cleveland from San Diego. No, these are young men who keep their promises.

Even so, Scott was heard to ask in the van to the airport, "Uh, tell me again why we are doing this." Both of them well knew. IMG had put up a not-quite-public sum as a winner-take-all incentive. When an ABC man hazarded a guess of $25,000, Brad Hunt, an IMG agent for runners, reacted as if he'd been bitten. "Oh, no," he said. "It was right around less than half of that, and all done through TAC." Whatever the amount, that meant the money was properly laundered to protect the runners' amateur status.

Scott and Coghlan discussed their children for a while. Then Scott asked about Padilla's race and learned that he'd also broken the American record for 3,000 meters en route. Scott stiffened. "That was my record," he said. They reached their 11:15 p.m. flight at 11:14 and managed a little sleep before alighting in Chicago at 5 a.m., local time. There they dozed on the carpet at the gate where two hours later they would board the plane to Cleveland. "You can't have a dream mile," Coghlan said, yawning, "unless you're asleep."

As they came off the plane in Cleveland, they blinked at bright sun in a chill Ohio sky. Defeating an attempt by their hotel to turn them away, they got rooms and slept for four hours. They met their competition, in the form of New Zealand's John Walker and Ireland's Ray Flynn (who had surpassed Coghlan's Irish record last summer with 3:49.77), in the lobby on the way to the track. "You look tired, Ray," sang out Coghlan. There was a contest to see who sounded most hale.

The mile was scheduled for 5:30 to suit TV. "We didn't have any choice in setting it up," said Drew Mearns, vice-president of IMG's running division. "ABC people wanted a nice mile. Only Cleveland would move its mile to 5:30."

And yet.... In spite of, or maybe because of, all these drawbacks, it was a compelling race. Randy Stephens of Athletic Attic went out front with purpose and ran 59.9 and 1:59.9 splits that looked even faster because everyone had to work so hard on the incessant banking. There were but three steps of level track on every straightaway. The rest was either climbing into a turn or stumbling out of one. This is Coghlan meat. He has such a quick, balanced stride that if he isn't careful he will run up on the taller, stiffer men in front of him. Flynn took the lead after the half, going into the second lane out of almost every turn. Scott, feeling tired, ran last. A gap opened between him and the leaders, but he closed it with four laps to go. "That gave me the confidence to be more aggressive," he said. He hit the lead with two to go, Coghlan passed him with 1½ remaining, yet Scott went to the front again entering the last lap. Coghlan, sprinting, but without the astonishing fury of the night before, drew fractionally ahead on the last turn and then bore in on Scott without enough of a lead to make such a move. "I didn't do it on purpose," he said later, "even though I was aware it would happen. The bank was so steep, at the speed we were going there was no way I could stay high." Scott threw out an arm, broke stride and lost his momentum. Coghlan roared to a 3:57.23 victory. Jose Abascal of Spain passed Scott for second, 3:58.22 to 3:58.42.

Scott thought Coghlan's excuses were sophistry. "He did that to me a couple of years ago in Ottawa," Scott said. "If this were a real, true, well-officiated meet, it would have been a disqualification. But this is indoors. No one will DQ Eamonn Coghlan." It seemed an unfortunate end to a race that Coghlan probably would have won anyway. But no one, certainly not Scott, would deny that Coghlan was back, hungrier and harder than ever.

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