Don Paige ran away from Villanova teammate Sydney Maree in the last 200 yards to win the Dream Mile in 3:54.7 today at the 12th annual International Freedom Games at Franklin Field. But if the day proved a dream for Paige, it was a nightmare for both the promoters and the D.C. International Track Club.

An all-day drizzle and negative prerace publicity turned the meet into a $30,000 financial bath for the promoters. Both Philadelphia papers today headlined the withdrawal of D.C. International's newest recruit, Renaldo Nehemiah, who plans to rest his injured ankle for at least three weeks.

Nehemiah visited Tony Daly, an Inglewood, Calif., orthopedic surgeon, after losing on the coast last week. His problem was diagnosed as a severe sprain on both sides of his left ankle. He also has resumed training under his old high school coach, Tom Poquette of Scotch Plains, N.J.

Then, en route to today's meet, a taxi crashed into the back of the van driven by D.C. International Coach Fred Sowerby. Two of his athletes, Henrietta Nancis and Gwen Norman, required emergency hospital treatment.

Sowerby, despite considerable pain resulting from the crash, ran a sensational 45.4 anchor 400 meters to bring D.C. International home first in the concluding 1,600-meter relay. He could have saved himself the pain, however.

Eddie Simms, running the second leg, followed three other runners in cutting across the curb from the outside track, where the race was being run officially, into the inside segment. The quartet discovered their error after about 100 meters and returned to the proper lane, but all teams were disqualified except last-place Army, which was declared the winner.

"I wanted to prove I could run in pain," Sowerby said. "I had a backache, a neckache and a headache. But I think we did pretty well today, considering what happened and the people we were missing."

The D.C. International men, anchored by Maurice Peoples, won the 400-meter event in 46.0. Cliff Wiley captured the 200 meters in 20.55 seconds.

Nehemiah, home in Scotch Plains following the end of exams at Maryland, conceded that he had run himself into the ground a year ago and said he had learned his lesson.

"Last year I was like a wild man trying to be the best and trying to set records," Nehemiah said. "I was on a pedestal and everybody was coming at me. I hung on for a while, but now everybody's waiting for me and I haven't been patient enough.

"It'll be at least three weeks before I'm back. I'm working with my high school coach now and we'll see how it goes. I knew I wasn't going to run well last week, but there was nothing I could do about it. I just went through the motions."

Nehemiah was a soundly beaten fourth in the Pepsi meet last Sunday at Los Angeles, the event where Paige jogged the last lap after coming up tight at the three-quarters mark because he had trained too hard the week before.

"I felt strong and I trained right up to the meet," Paige said. "Obviously, it was a mistake. I had to write that off and just figure to do my best the next time."

The next time was today and Paige sprinted past Villanova teammate Sydney Maree with 200 yards to go, then accelerated again at the final turn as he covered the last quarter in 54.3 seconds. Paige said his second spurt was caused by crowd reaction, a somewhat ironic situation since fewer than 2,500 came to Franklin Field.

"I'll perform for whoever's there and the real track nuts were here today," Paige said. "The crowd was reacting and I wondered, was it for me or was somebody barreling down the stretch, I took a quick glance and did not see anyone, but I went up a gear anyway."

Paige is expected to attempt to repeat his 800-1,500 doubles of 1979 in both the IC4A meet here next weekend and at the NCAA championships at Austin, Tex., June 5-7. The decision will be made by Coach Jumbo Elliott, who was noncommittal today.

Maree, a South African, came back 45 minutes after the mile and whipped a good field in the 5,000 meters. Maree was timed in 13:58.9 with Villanova teammate Amos Korir of Kenya second, a couple of steps behind.

Madeline Manning, still a standout at age 32, won the women's 800 in 2:05.3. She set the Freedom Games record of 2.02.0 eight years ago and was the Olympic champion in 1968.

Ester Rot of Israel upset Pennsylvania schoolgirl Candy Young in the women's 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.56 seconds. Villanova freshman Rodney Wilson won the man's 110-meter hurdles in Nehemiah's absence in 13.84.