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The battle went to Royle
Kenny Moore
December 07, 1981
Unheralded Adrian Royle beat Alberto Salazar for the TAC championship
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December 07, 1981

The Battle Went To Royle

Unheralded Adrian Royle beat Alberto Salazar for the TAC championship

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As Royle continued to lead, seeming to grow ever stronger, Salazar understood what was happening. "He was a guy running the race of his life," Salazar said. "He would be willing to pay any price and still be able to kick like mad. And I was trying to avoid having to press hard all the way. I should have realized I couldn't get away with that. I should have tried to kill him on the hills."

Royle, who has run a 4:00.8 mile, was very much alive as they entered the final 160 yards. Salazar moved first, but Royle cut him off before he could pass, then sprinted away to win by two seconds in 27:20, a time that meant either this was the greatest 10,000 ever run or the course was short, because Rono's world record on a smooth, dry track is 27:22.4. Royle crossed the line with his face twisted in glee and at once showed himself to be a man quite assertive in victory. "Everybody was here," he shouted. "I came with the intention of beating them all, and no one was missing, and I don't want any bitching now, I beat 'em all!"

Those he beat, in order, were Salazar, Jan Hagelbrand of San Diego, Rose, 1977 world junior champion Thorn Hunt of Tucson, and, in sixth, showing amazing stamina for a miler, one Steve Scott. Rono finished 37th.

Royle stood in the mud at the end of the finishing chute and held a sort of rough court for kids seeking autographs and adults wanting to know how he had pulled off this singular coup. He is 5'11", 145 and worked as a clerk in a rubber factory in Manchester before coming to the U.S. 15 months ago. He started running competitively at 17. "I wasn't much into sport until then," he said. "I spent more time in the forest bird watching than I ever did running." He has never run a 10,000 on the track, considering himself a miler during track seasons.

Again he gave voice to his satisfaction, not so much at winning but at the specific crushing of Salazar. "And I'm younger than he is [by a year]," he said, rubbing it in. "I'm the baby in America now."

Salazar jogged away through the rainy dusk, saying, "It's plain stupidity to underestimate the other guy." Too, he was feeling more sharply what he already knew, that as a world-record holder he is a marked man in any race he enters. He watched the crowds leaving the course. The once-smooth fairways were riven with brown trails. Ropes protecting greens were torn away where the spectators, behaving more like fans in Paris or Limerick than in Burbank, had surged to watch. In one light the damage could be seen as a sort of defiance, common sport trampling a place of privilege. Perhaps it was defiance that was the chief note in Royle's bearing, as well, in his saying, "I'm a nobody," and, catching himself, adding, "Uh...was a nobody." As with the man he had beaten, being a nobody is a luxury that the remarkable Adrian Royle will never enjoy again.

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