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EXCERPT | Feb. 18, 1980
Mary Decker ran to a record at the Millrose Games
Decker had been a sensation since she began winning distance races in 1973 at the age of 14. But her electrifying performance at the Millrose Games heralded a dominant three-year stretch that included 10 world records and two world championships. Joe Marshall was on hand for SI.
From the start Mary Decker was running all alone. After just two of the 10¼ laps in the 1,500-meter run at last Friday's Wanamaker Millrose Games, she had opened a 15-yard lead over the six other runners in the event. All too obviously the field offered no competition, but at the quarter-mile mark the jammed-to-the-rafters crowd in Madison Square Garden suddenly became aware that Mary Decker was in a race—a race with track history.
As she neared the finish, the Garden crowd was standing, the spectators stamping their feet and screaming, the athletes, the officials, even the gaudily uniformed specials in the infield applauding and cheering her on as she pounded down the backstretch, leaned into the final turn and headed for home, the strain of her lonely effort now showing in her face. When she flashed across the line, the clocks high above the arena froze at 4:00.82. Decker, her head hanging in exhaustion, didn't see the time. A meet official grabbed her, thrusting a stopwatch in front of her face. "I thought I'd run 4:05," she said later. "I couldn't believe it when I saw that double zero." She looked up, dazed, and then threw her arms up and hugged her head as she was engulfed by a mob of media people, meet officials and athletes. Her official time of 4:00.8 had broken the world indoor record by 2.2 seconds, the American record by a staggering nine.
Thirty years later, Decker's time remains the Millrose record.
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