He chopped a little at the second, the third, the fifth. Phillips was right with him again. "Over the seventh, though," as Phillips said afterward, "I saw him take a little look over his shoulder. And he just took off!"
"The last half of my race is explosive because I've run conservatively the first half," said Moses. "I always feel behind." Now he was tired enough that he could run all out and have his steps fit perfectly. By the eighth hurdle he was rapidly pulling away from Phillips.
"That was about the point," Phillips would say, "where someone said to me, 'Here, take this refrigerator with you.' "
Moses' last 90 meters was no longer race, but display. He stayed balanced and low over the last two hurdles and drove with sweeping uppercuts across the line. The time was 47.02, a world record by .11 of a second, a hundredth faster even than he had dreamed.
It was the fourth time Moses had broken the record; he took it from Uganda's John Akii-Bua in 1976 with a 47.64 in the Olympic final and reduced it to 47.45 in 1977 and 47.13 in 1980. But in Koblenz, Moses couldn't stop smiling. "Well, I haven't had a PR for three years," he said, laughing, and then took a slow victory lap.
Phillips had been second in 48.26, Lee third in 48.65 and Schmid fourth in 48.92. Phillips, since this was his last race of the year, took off his shoes and shirt and threw them into the crowd. Moses would need his to win his 86th straight race (48.74) the next night in Rome and No. 87 (47.93) in Riete, Italy on Sunday.
When friends and promoters offered him birthday congratulations, Moses' answer was, "Couldn't ask for anything more." He gathered Lee and Phillips around him, looking at them fondly. They were bonded by the difficulty of what they had done well. "This is a rough event," Moses said. "That's why you don't have a lot of guys just dropping in and out. You know the very few who know this craft."
You could see the wheels turning. Then he said, "It's going to be hard not to think about a U.S. Olympic sweep next year."