Marla Runyan, the first legally blind athlete to make a U.S. Olympic team, came to New York on a mission: Break the American indoor record in the women's 5,000 meters.
She delivered Sunday with the smashing success of a Broadway hit. Running the final 2,800 meters by herself, Runyan was timed in 15 minutes, 7.33 seconds -- more than 15 seconds faster than the previous mark of 15:22.64 by Lynn Jennings at Hanover, N.H., in 1990.
En route, the 32-year-old runner shattered the American best for three miles of 14:56.0 that Jennings ran during her 5,000-meter race. Runyan was timed at 14:40.56 for three miles.
"My focus was going to be on the 5,000 this year," said Runyan, the eighth-place finisher in the 1,500 meters at the Sydney Games -- the best placing ever by an American in that event at the Olympics. "With a new coach, we wrote this (chasing the record) down as a goal in November."
Three other runners began the race with Runyan, but none went farther than 2,200 meters. The other three were as confident as Runyan that she would break the 5,000 record.
"Judging from her confidence and warming up with her today, I could tell she was on," said Allis Harvey, a former Pan American Games gold medalist.
Harvey was the last of the other starters to drop out, leaving the track after 2,150 meters.
Britain's Danielle Thorn paced Runyan through the first 1,600 meters, with Harvey second, followed by Runyan and Glades Prier. Two hundred meters after Thorn dropped out, the tired Prier stepped off the track.
"I couldn't ask for any more from you guys," Runyan told the others immediately after the race. "It was perfect."
In other running news: Gabriela Szabo took almost a second off a 12-year-old world record in a 3,000-meter race at Birmingham, England.
"Today's world record is the first step for the summer," the 25-year-old Romanian star said after setting a mark Sunday in an event she hasn't lost in six years.
"I like to run indoors because I can work on my speed so that I can then run very fast outdoors."
Szabo's time of 8 minutes, 32.88 seconds at the National Indoor Arena indicated that the Olympic and world champion over 5,000 meters appears to be getting quicker.