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IT'S SEVEN O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING
James E. Shapiro
July 28, 1980
...and we've run the whole night through. So reports the author, No. 18, emerging from the fog at London's Crystal Palace after enduring 15 hours of a grueling 24-hour race
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July 28, 1980

It's Seven O'clock In The Morning

...and we've run the whole night through. So reports the author, No. 18, emerging from the fog at London's Crystal Palace after enduring 15 hours of a grueling 24-hour race

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A tall, familiar figure smiles at me and hurries alongside as I creak past. It is close to 11 a.m., and Statistician Andy Milroy, fresh from pencil and paper and a stimulating night helping count laps, has news for me.

"In a little while you're going to get the American 200-kilometer record," he says. I didn't even know there was such a thing.

"Are you sure?" I ask. "What about Park Barner—he's run further than where I'll get today, so he must have gone through faster."

Milroy shakes his head.

"No one took down his 200-K time, so you're it. You'll break Ted Corbitt's mark of 20:59:41. Even if you walk you'll get it."

I ponder that for an instant. It seems odd to walk one's way to an American record, not quite what I had imagined in my fantasies, but I won't be choosy. I will walk to it if I have to. Luckily I'm still going, although, as I heard later, what passed for a grin was actually a grimace. Sometimes I remember to unhook my face and bring my flapping arms down. And the feet are still moving. I get very happy about a record, though there are funny aspects to this record business you don't learn beforehand. To stand where no man has stood before...well, I'd found Coke signs in the Amazon jungle and ghostly footprints on the 200-K record, but I wasn't returning any gifts today.

At 20:14:04 I go through the record for 200 kilometers, which is 124.2 miles. I was never sure exactly which footsteps did it, and the scoreboard took a while to get it up there. The next goal becomes 130 miles. A note in the program says only 24 athletes have run more than 120 miles in 24 hours, and I know now that each mile will begin to place me higher in the world rankings maintained by the English Road Runners Club. All the same, without really noticing, I start to walk longish stretches. I am getting very-tired of pushing. The steel bands my thighs are encased in have pinched my flesh so long that I am just plain weary of being weary. All the same I try little surges, but I find I am breathing heavily just maintaining my pace. My hair, which I had vowed not to cut until the race was over, is very long and curly. Although most of it is packed out of sight beneath a wool ski cap, long strands limp with sweat and moisture from the nighttime fog dangle in a Rastafarian manner on all sides.

Legge appears again. I brace myself for bad news.

"You're not doing badly," he says. "You can get to 140 miles or more if you just remember what I'm telling you about keeping some kind of speed up. You're really doing very well."

O.K., O.K., I breathe to myself. One, two, three, four. Push, carry, stumble on.

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