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In the fourth mile her bounding power was ebbing. Decker Tabb simply ran with a quicker cadence. The miles went by in 5:04, 5:06, 5:03. Along the last backstretch spectators roared her on and then ran across the infield to see the finish. Decker Tabb sprinted well, though she said, "I couldn't kick in those shoes. They felt cloddy, not like track shoes."
She crossed the line in 31:35.3, the fastest 10,000 ever by a woman on a track and her seventh world record of 1981. (On the road, Grete Waitz of Norway has run a 31:00.) It was Decker Tabb's third world mark in six weeks and made her the fastest U.S. woman of the year at all six distances from 800 to 10,000 meters.
Because of the relative ease with which she set the record, Decker Tabb at first discounted the significance of her run. "It just proves the records aren't real stiff yet," she said. "I'd like to try it again. It will come down some more."
The next day she added, "That 3,000 [in Oslo] was my best run. It's a tougher record than the five or 10. That's the one I want to go back and get." The 3,000 will be the longest race on the track for women in the 1984 Olympics, when everything comes back to where Decker Tabb grew up, in Los Angeles.
"But first maybe Alberto and I could wait a couple of weeks and try another of these neat all-comers meets. He can do his 10,000, and I'll do the 5,000. I'd get more satisfaction from breaking 15 minutes than I would from winning some 1,000-meter race in Nice."
This idea has yet to get Brown's approval, but Ron said he knows Mary can run in the 14:30s. "I get so much satisfaction out of watching her progress," he says. "I think, for example, that if she can stay healthy, she'll be the first woman to break 2:20 in the marathon." He looked at Mary, who was squirming to get out and run an easy six. "I've found a great training partner."
"Me, too," said Mary. "Let's go."