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As had Coe himself. Yet he had floated across the line in 3:49.0, a world record. "The lesson of the cold-en Mile," says Coe's father, "is one that the two finest athletes ignored: Run through the tape."
Coe relaxed through it into pandemonium. "Everyone was shouting, of course, calling a wild variety of times," he says. "My father was the first person I was willing to listen to. He told me I'd done it."
Someone thrust a Union Jack tied to a birch branch into Coe's hands, and he took a jubilant victory lap with a train of photographers behind. "He looked like a combination Pied Piper and Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People," says Masback.
Coe received a gold trophy worth $13,000 from IAAF President Adrian Paulen on television—during which time NBC's Charlie Jones held his cigarette at the hem of his blazer so it would not appear in the picture-then had it immediately taken back; it is not a "keeper."
By the time Coe and his father had satisfied the English press, the stadium was empty. They went in search of a ride to the athletes' reception. "I always thought when someone broke a world record the angels came down and bore you off to wherever you wanted to go," says Scott. "But there was Coe, walking out confused, just like the rest of us."
Eventually the milers reached the site of the dinner, an Oslo hotel. Coe went to shower in someone's room. Masback stayed in the lobby to make a call home, "in the time I sat there," he says, "Walker got three calls from New Zealand newspapers. He said all the right things: Yes, I'm sorry it's gone, but it was a great effort by coe. I'm only glad to have had a chance to be in the race....' All the right things, but with such an expression of anguish on his face that I had to look away."
As Walker suffered, Coe, damp from his shower, passed lightly by on his way to the reception room. As he entered, the meet's athletes rose in a standing ovation. For the first time what he had done began to sink in, and he was moved.
Runners will say of a successful race, "You wake the next morning and it is gone." It was in recognition of the evanescence of victory that the ancient Olympic Games awarded winners only a perishable olive wreath. Yet the final measure of the Golden Mile consists of whatever its makers carried from it.
Wessinghage, who was eighth in 3:53.2, recalls Coghlan's final kick. "A great gesture," he says. "I wish I had done that." In August he would set the pace for Ovett's attempt at Coe's record in London. Ovett would barely miss, with 3:49.6. Wessinghage, remembering Coghlan, would hang on to run 3:50.6, the fourth-fastest mile ever.
Williamson flew back to Glasgow the next morning. He tried to tell himself he'd been lucky; Masback's spikes might easily have split his Achilles tendon. "But I couldn't help thinking of what I might have done had I not been spiked," he says. "I was so close." The flight had to hold for half an hour over Glasgow. "I kept punching the seat in front of me. I was so close."