For Stan Vinson, it is a matter of having his needs met before his wants can be realized.
The 24-year-old sprinter who has been running for the D.C. Striders since October has relatively simple wants. He wants to make the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. He wants to beat Cuba's Alberto Juantorena in Moscow in the 400-meter dash. He wants the currently undefeated Strider mile relay team that he anchors to set a world indoor record this year.
But this needs are quite another challenge. For starters, Vinson needs a job to support himself. He needs employment that will allow him time for training, with weekends off for competition.
He needs speed work to match his endurance training. He needs consistency in training, which means a permanent indoor track where he can work out through the winter.
Vinson's wants are feasible. He missed by a mere three-hundredths of a second of qualifying for the Montreal Olympics. "About the length of a finger," he recalls ruefully. "I cried. I broke down in tears. The hardest thing to do in this country is to make the Olympic team. Once you get through the trials, the Games are easy."
Of course, whipping the swift Juantorena would not be easy, but Vinson's eyes go soft as he talks about his plan of attack. "My goal is to beat the best," he says. "But I have to do it with two hours of training a day. The athletes in Russia and Cuba, they can afford to train all day. Being an athlete is their business."
The D.C. Striders are talking these days about the mile relay record as if were almost guaranteed. They were undefeated last season and thus far on the indoor circuit no team has challenged them. They set a Madison Square Garden record recently with a 3:13.8 clocking Vinson ran a swift 47.3 leg.
"It would be amazing to set the record this Saturday in New York (at the Olympic Invitational) because the Madison Square Garden track is dead and slow," said runner-coach Fred Sowerby. "Our best chance is Sunday in Montreal (against the Canadian Olympic team) on a better, faster track."
Sowerby and Vinson are considered the best one-two combination in the country in the 600-yard dash.It used to be that one week Sowerby would win; the next week Vinson would triumph.
"But now we switch it up. One week I run the 600; the next I take the 500," said Sowerby. That's so we don't knock heads all the time and we save some energy for the mile relay." The other members of the relay team are Dennis Walker and Maurice Peoples.
"Vinson is going to play a vital part," Sowerby said. Vinson says he doesn't mind the pressure at anchor of "making up time."
The record is 3:11.9 on an 11-lap track. The Striders have run 3:12.1 this year.
The relay team may be in a position of dominance, but still to be settled is which Strider will be favored to take the national AAU title for the 600-yard dash Feb. 25. Sowerby is defending champion, but Vinson is chomping at the bit. Both men will be entered in the event: the 24-year-old Vinson versus his coach, the 28-year-old Sowerby, Age is nota factor, says Sowerby, who predicts that he and Vinson will duel in Moscow in 1980.
They practice together daily. When the weather is bad, they ran indoors at Cole Field House on the upper-level cement corridor. It is not a tidy workout; joggers force them to cut in and out. And the janitor regulates their pace, forcing them to "stride" and not run for speed.
"The only places we can do speedwork is outdoors on the board tracks at Catholic and Georgetown," complains Sowerby.
"Stan comes on likes gangbusters at the end of the race," the coach analyzed. "But this year I'm going to work on changing his first 220. We have to do speedword; some flying 100s and 200s. Running starts; that's going to be the basis of his speed work. He trained with Brooks Johnson for two years, but while Johnson is very good on indoor workouts I don't have a lot of faith in his outdoor training. Stan has to unlearn some habits."
Vinson claims his worst habit is daydreaming at the starting line. There is a certain amount of strategy involved in a 400-meter of 600-meter dash but, as times are lowered, what used to be medium-distance tactical runs are more often all-out sprints.
"I'm a dreamer more or less," Vinson confessed. "When you're alone, you think of a whole lot of different ways to run a race. You go to the line with question marks in your mind. I like to run all out the first quartermile, but I haven't had enough speed work this year. I do my strength workouts for endurance, but it's hard running at Cole on the concrete. You can get shin splints that way."
Vinson is nursing a nagging injury to his left thigh, but is less concerned with his injury, with his lack of training facilities, with his tendency to blow comfortable leads and with untimely daydreams than he is with finding a job.
The speedy Vinson lasted seven days in an executive-training position with the Marriott Corp. The complaint: he was too slow moving trays.