In order to complete all 18 events in the prescribed 14� hours, Hershberger had to maintain what was destined to be a frantic pace. He occasionally had to change clothes in the backseat of a station wagon while riding from one venue to another, and he was consuming his food rations in virtual midstride. Then his luck turned. His 15-year-old son, Chris, out-shot him in 100 rounds of target riflery. "Give me another round," Hershberger pleaded, only half kidding. "I may be your father, but I'm not a good sport." No success. Next Lida, a onetime Big Eight indoor 440 champ, outsprinted Hershberger over 200 meters (25.4 to 26.9) on Wichita State's—what else?—Jim Hershberger Track. After that he ministered to a new trouble spot, an aching left instep. He cut off its wrapping of athletic tape and began spraying it from a small silver canister. "What is that stuff?" he was asked.
Hershberger smiled. "You're supposed to have a prescription for it," he said. In fact, it was ethyl chloride, a surface anesthetic spray, which he soon would be using copiously on a broken right hand. Twenty minutes into a 10-mile bicycle race he was pedaling in Wichita's commuter traffic when he ran a stop sign, made the mistake of trying to wave an apology to an irate motorist and flipped off the bike. Not only did he fracture his hand (and two fingers), but he also lost the bike race. "I'm not tired, I'm hurt, dammit," he said. He winced as he bowled three games, losing again, this time to Clark Ensz.
Hershberger hurried off to a doctor's office for a shot of Xylocaine, another anesthetic. "It's swelling up," he said of his hand, "but I don't have time for X rays. I've gotta wrestle and play handball right away." He received the injection (and a look of incredulity), but it wasn't very effective; for much of the day he kept treating the hand with ice, ethyl chloride and hot-wax dips, and had it taped before some events. He came out of his wrestling match (against a 1977 state high school champ) with another defeat and a gashed and broken nose. "Just part of the game," he said. "He happened to get me before I got him."
In the span of a mere five hours Hershberger, who normally looks all of 35, seemed to have aged into something much closer to his actual years. With the blood on his nose drying into a ghastly-looking clot, he took on the postfight appearance of an old, battered boxer. He was able to win only two of the last nine events—racquetball against a TV anchorman and the 10-km road race.
Yet in defeat Hershberger showed his true grit. In every event he outhustled his younger, fresher opponents. He insisted on playing handball with his bad right hand because he thought he might win that way. He outplayed the Kansas City Kings' eighth-round draft choice, Guard Randy Smithson of Wichita State, in 40 minutes of five-on-five basketball and, yes, was actually disappointed in himself. "What did I score, 12 points?" Hershberger said disgustedly. "It had to have been that bad hand."
He kept it up right through the final event, the road race, which didn't start until 6:40 p.m., nearly 14 hours after the ordeal began. Dave Capling, one of the other runners, said, "We'd be running along when suddenly Jim would cut across the grass and leap through a hedge. Then we'd hear, 'Oooooh, my hamstring! My hamstring!' What did he expect from jumping through bushes?"
Hershberger was still clutching his hamstring when he reached the finish line in front of his house. His time of 38:53.89 was excellent, and he was greeted with applause by more than a thousand guests who had been invited to his backyard birthday dinner. One thousand helium balloons were set loose. A young woman delivered a singing telegram and coaxed Hershberger into dancing with her. The state attorney general showed up, as did the Wichita fire chief—in a flashing, wailing engine. "Now" said Hershberger, "I am tired."