She called Brown and inquired if she might run. He said she could enter, but only if she promised three things: not to wear spikes—only flats—to save her legs; that if she was feeling bad, she'd drop out; and that she'd do no track work for a week afterward. Ron agreed that all restrictions would be adhered to.
"They gang up on me," said Mary.
Brown checked and found that official marks could be set in the race. "Go to break Mary Shea's American record (of 32:52.5)—but just by a little bit," said Brown. "Seventy-nine seconds per lap will do it."
The world record was 32:17.19, held by Yelena Sipatova of the Soviet Union, although Denmark's Loa Olafsson has run a 31:45.4 that wasn't accepted because there were men in the race. "I think you can run 76s or 77s," said Ron. He told Brown Mary could run 31:30. He has credentials as a prognosticator, having predicted 4:18 in the Paris mile.
At 8 p.m. the summer twilight at Hayward Field was almost Scandinavian in its coolness. The daylong north wind had dropped. And about 500 Eugenians ringed the track. Mary, growing eager, was trying to get out of part of her deal. "Don't you think I ought to wear spikes?" she asked an old friend, John Gregorio, who's also a shoe representative. But old friends know all about her fragility. "Nice soft flats," said Gregorio.
Decker Tabb went to the line. In flats. Beside her was Eryn Forbes of Oregon, the runner-up in the NCAA 10,000. "What pace are you going out in?" asked Decker Tabb.
"Seventy-nines," said Forbes.
"I'll just stay behind for a while," said Mary.
It was a very short while. Decker Tabb had the lead and was running away after 50 yards. "Well, the pace felt way too slow," she said afterward. "I just picked it up to where I felt relaxed." Her first four laps were 76, 77, 76 and 77, a 5:06 mile. She didn't even look as if she had begun to sweat. Her second mile was 5:07, and still she ran with the miler's power, perhaps overstriding a little, but obviously in complete control. "I just wanted to relax," she said. "I wasn't sure when you should try to push it, or even whether you should."
Her third mile was in 5:10, the 5,000 passed in 15:55, world record pace. Ron stood by the track, calling "77...78...77..." as Mary ground out the laps.