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Kenny Moore
September 07, 1981
His latest mile world record having lasted but a week, Sebastian Coe came racing back to regain it in Brussels
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September 07, 1981

Coe On The Go

His latest mile world record having lasted but a week, Sebastian Coe came racing back to regain it in Brussels

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"No. A runner," Coe said simply, sending the ball over the boy's head.

In the evening, the runner entered a stadium filled with 45,000 Belgians and an atmosphere of near-misses. Renaldo Nehemiah, trying to break his world record of 12.93 in the 110-meter hurdles, false-started twice, got away with it, but ran 13.07. Evelyn Ashford, showing splendid form, "took a deep breath" in the middle of the 200 meters and thereby missed her American record by .01 with a 21.84. Only Pam Spencer fulfilled her hopes, high-jumping to an American record of 6'5½". Both Nehemiah and Ashford were fascinated by the mile. "I wish I could have a rabbit," they said, almost in unison.

Coe had the best rabbit going. Byers led Coe past 400 meters in 54.92. "I felt the wind in the backstretch," said Boit, who was third. "I thought, 'Oh, the time isn't going to be good.' " After 600 meters the pack was 20 yards behind. "Everybody was pushing and stepping on each other," Scott said. "I cut my stride 10 times."

Byers hit 800 meters in 1:52.67, and as he came out of the first turn on the third lap, Coe closed. "He was antsy at 900," Byers said. "That's where I slowed in Zurich and he was anticipating." Coe stumbled, horrifying the crowd, but he recovered easily. Byers picked up the pace, but tired after another 100 meters. He moved wide as the curve began and Coe drove through into the lead. This was precisely the spot Coe's father and coach, Peter, had chosen to watch the race. "I'd decided that was where the climax had to come," he said.

Coe passed 1,200 meters in 2:51.00 with Boit only three yards behind. Both men looked strong, their arms lightly carried rather than pumped. Now it wasn't a calculated record attempt at all. There was one clear intent: Win the race. Down the last backstretch Boit let Coe gain only one more yard. "I knew he was there," Coe said. "The added spur was tremendous. It was the first time in all my record races where someone was with me almost to the end. There was no way I was going to subconsciously relax."

With 200 to go, Coe surged. "I felt great. 'Kick, I can kick,' I said to myself on the bend." He sprinted home powerfully, crossed the line and nearly disappeared into a bedlam of photographers and officials. His time was 3:47.33, more than a full second torn from Ovett's record. It was the third mile Coe has run in the last three years, and in each he has set a world record.

Boit faded, finishing 15 yards back in 3:49.45, nearly three-tenths faster than his 3:49.74 of Zurich. "It is good to break 3:50 twice," he said. "It gives you some confidence that it wasn't by chance."

Scott was third in 3:51.48, Maree fourth in 3:51.81, Wessinghage fifth in 3:52.60, and John Walker sixth in 3:52.97. "I was sluggish," said Scott, who hadn't recovered from his superb 1,500 in Koblenz two nights prior. "My season's over. I'm going home."

Byers trotted in last in 4:21.46, so no one could say the pacemaker didn't finish. Within an hour he received half a dozen requests to rabbit upcoming races. "It's great Seb got the record," he said. "But my rabbit days are over. It makes you feel three inches tall. From now on, if I lead, it's to help my own chances."

Coe was awarded a golden trophy, and then he pushed Boit to the top of the victory stand. "His being there made it for me," Coe said. "We put him up for not growing old. He's 10 years older than I am. [Approximately. Boit is unsure of his birth date, but guesses he is 33. Coe is 24.] His was the run of the evening."

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