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In the sixth lap the Australians and Russians had caught the leaders again but Kov�cs still plodded behind. In the eighth lap Kuts passed the 3,000-meter mark dead on the world-record schedule of eight minutes 24 seconds, and a lap later added a tactical trick that I was unaware he included in his armamentarium—he pointedly moved out into the second lane halfway down the back straightaway. This might have been an invitation to Pirie to pass him on the inside, perhaps with dangerous consequences; or less likely, because of its inconsistency, Kuts might have considered that the looseness of the inner lane of the track merited the effort of an extra seven meters a lap.
At the same place on the next lap Kuts sprinted again for about 200 meters; each time he made his burst Pirie's face set to a more impassive gnomelike determination. In the 10th lap this pair, inextricably locked in struggle, began to draw away from the rest of the field, though Kov�cs and Norris were gradually gaining on Power, Lawrence and Chernyavskiy. At 4,000 meters, in 11 minutes 16.1 seconds, still on world-record schedule, Kuts and Pirie were 30 meters ahead. At 5,000 meters, nearly 100 meters clear, they equaled Z�topek's Olympic 5,000-meter record of 14 minutes 6.6 seconds.
Kuts was still very much aware of Pirie, who was breathing down his neck and occasionally, inadvertently, touching his heels. In the 15th lap Kuts remorselessly sprinted away again, this time increasing his lap speed by five seconds. Pirie responded to the challenge. The second bunch, behind by more than the whole finishing straightaway, were now led by Kov�cs with Lawrence, Norris, Chernyavskiy, Power and Krzyszkowiak behind him.
With nine laps to go, Kuts changed his tactics. This 16th lap was over six seconds slower than the previous one and on the back straightaway he once more moved into the second lane and this time waved Pirie into the lead with his left hand. Pirie, outstanding among British athletes for his love of leading, for the first time betrayed a sign of inner dismay at Kuts's inhumanity and could not have looked unhappier at this invitation to athletic suicide. He has never approached such speeds in any previous 10,000-meter runs and now Kuts was inviting him to play a cat-and-mouse game. He stayed behind and survived yet another burst in the 17th lap. I began to wonder whether the unpredictable Pirie was at last a match for the brilliant Kuts. As the laps grew more erratic, Kuts, too, must have felt the strain. This showed in the total time which at 8,000 meters was 23:02.8—15 seconds behind on a world record schedule. In the 20th lap Kuts again moved out to tempt Pirie to pass him on the inside. Pirie resisted this unambiguous gesture as long as possible, but when Kuts practically stopped running, Pirie at last reluctantly took the lead. For 100 meters Kuts contemplated his handiwork from behind.
By the end of the 20th lap, slowest of the race, Kuts clearly decided that the softening-up process was complete and took back the lead. Pirie at last was broken. There was a cry of dismay as the spectators saw released the accumulated pain of his 20-lap struggle. Now Pirie was like a toy motor running down. With barely five laps to go to the finish, Kuts relentlessly drew away by 5, 10, 20, 30 yards.
Without so much as a backward glance, Kuts knew the race was over. By the end of another lap, the 21st, he was 100 meters ahead of Pirie, who was passed by Kov�cs and Lawrence. With three laps to go, Pirie was passed by Krzyszkowiak of Poland and Norris of Britain. In this humiliation he must have realized that by gallantly attempting to follow Kuts he had certainly sacrificed any chance of a silver medal, not that a soul would have wished him to run the race otherwise. Kuts was now losing ground steadily to Kov�cs but flogged himself as mercilessly as he had tormented Pirie. He ran with the cadence of Sir Alan Herbert's rhyme:
Vladimir, Vladimir Kuts,
But Kuts is no mere machine. His mind is as tough as his body and has the same remorseless skill. Spectators of every country stood to cheer Kuts as he approached the finish, Kov�cs now only 50 meters behind him. Kuts breasted the tape in 28 minutes 45.6 seconds, some 15 seconds short of his own world record, holding up his right hand above his head like the prizefighter he is.
The mask fell from his face. He broke into a smile and waved to the crowd as he ran his lap of honor. But before long he was making a traditional Russian speech, very correct, very uninformative: "The public were very kind, and I appreciated the way they applauded me."
The first five runners, Kuts, Kov�cs, Lawrence, Krzyszkowiak and Norris, all broke Z�topek's Olympic record. Pirie was passed in the last lap by Chernyavskiy of Russia and Power of Australia and came in eighth. He commented less formally: "It wasn't the fact that he beat me. It was the way he did it. He murdered me. I hope I never have to complete against a runner like him again."