Falcon swept into the homestretch in lane 2, gaining steadily on Elliott, whose stride had grown short and stiff. "My only thought was to maintain my form up the homestretch," said Falcon. "And I did, until the last 15 meters."
In those final, agonizing strides, Falcon's teeth were clenched and his head turned from side to side. But by then he was safely past Elliott. He crossed the line with his arms stretched wide. His time was 3:49.31, making him the third-fastest American miler ever.
Elliott held on to finish second in 3:49.76. "I tried to respond when Joe went by," he said, "but my legs were too heavy. If you have to lose somewhere, it's better to lose here."
Falcon won the TAC 1,500 last month. He is the first American to win the Dream Mile since Scott in '82. It is a mantle he assumes with a sense of humility and history. "For a very long time," he said, "middle-distance running in the U.S. has been carried by two guys, Scott and [Jim] Spivey. This gives me a chance to continue the tradition."
Falcon was so eager to praise his competitors that he seemed embarrassed by his victory. "The difference between now and later," he said, "is that Peter won't tie up later. He's not quite as fit as he could be." Falcon gave himself credit for having joined the fast early pace and for having risked collapse in the homestretch.
Magnificent chances had been taken earlier in the evening in the men's 10,000 meters as well. Salvatore Antibo of Italy was hoping to break Arturo Barrios's 1989 world record of 27:08.23. The occasion seemed perfect. Not only was the field exceptionally deep, but also the race came 25 years to the day after Ron Clarke of Australia had run the first sub-28-minute 10,000, in the same stadium. What's more, Clarke had been invited to celebrate the anniversary. Asked whom he liked in the race, he did not hesitate.
"Antibo," said Clarke. "He is aggressive and takes charge of a race. I have little patience with someone who sits back and sucks everyone up."
Twenty-eight years old, with high cheekbones and large, luminous eyes, Antibo hurls himself into races, his bony elbows pumping away near his shoulders. He came to Oslo aiming not just to break the world mark but to break the 27-minute barrier as well. Antibo had tuned up for his record attempt by running 13:12.99 for 5,000 in Formia, Italy, the previous weekend. "He killed the rabbit," said an incredulous Gianni Merlo of the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Just finding a rabbit to run 13:30 for 5,000 meters is difficult. Antibo went looking for help. He proposed a private deal to Hammou Boutayeb, a 33-year-old Moroccan who possessed the year's second-fastest time in the 5,000 (13:11.69). They would run the first 5,000 in 13:30 and then take turns leading two laps each. According to several sources, Antibo offered to pay Boutayeb $6,000, and Boutayeb agreed to think about it. While he was ruminating, however, Said Aouita, who also wants to break 27:00, learned of Antibo's proposal to Boutayeb and reportedly got to his countryman.
Although he had not heard back from Boutayeb, Antibo hardly expected to be double-crossed by him. He sped the first 5,000 in an astonishing 13:28.72. Only Boutayeb went with him. Antibo pushed hard for two laps and then slowed. Boutayeb slowed also. Antibo spun around and gestured angrily for Boutayeb to take his turn. When it was clear Boutayeb had no intention of doing so, Antibo sped off, hoping to lose him.