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A Wrong Turn Is Not Enough to Derail Silva

November 07, 1994|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — As German Silva turned onto 59th Street at the south end of Central Park on Sunday, two policemen yelled at him as if he had ignored a Do Not Enter sign.

He had.

With less than half a mile to go in the 25th New York City Marathon, Silva, running in lock step with co-leader Benjamin Paredes, turned right when he should have gone straight. By the time Silva realized what he had done, Paredes had a 60-yard lead.

But in a comeback that put him on highlight reels instead of blooper tapes, Silva caught and passed Paredes, winning by two seconds.

Tegla Loroupe of Kenya could have made a wrong turn into New Jersey and won the women's division. Her time of 2 hours 27 minutes 37 seconds was more than two minutes faster than runner-up Madina Biktagirova of Russia, with Anne Marie Letko of Glen Gardner, N.J., third.

Silva's victory came in 2:11:21, relatively slow because of warm and humid conditions that medical personnel said contributed to the death of two runners because of heart attacks.

The Mexican's victory over countryman Paredes was the closest finish in race history. Former Mexican teammate and now U.S. citizen Arturo Barrios was third in 2:11:43 after leading in the 24th mile.

Silva, a brash 26-year-old, had said last week that the rest of the 27,000-plus runner field was competing for second place.

"I said something, and then I had to do what I said," he said Sunday. But he made it difficult.

In only his third marathon, he ran with the lead pack that included up to 21 men all day, seldom leading, but never far from it.

Barrios held or was close to the lead for eight miles from the midway point while Silva and Paredes paced each other, passing water cups back and forth. They ran shoulder-to-shoulder into the final moments of the 26-mile, 385-yard race. Barrios tried one more challenge, taking the lead in about the 24th mile.

"I was determined to push the pace and if they were going to beat me, they were going to have to pay the price," Barrios said. When Silva and Paredes responded, Barrios was done.

Silva almost was too.

At the corner of 7th Avenue and 59th Street, there is an escape route for vehicles, mostly those carrying the media. "I was very concentrated on my pace," Silva said. "I don't know exactly what happened, but I went to the right and I thought (Paredes) was going with me."

Instead, Paredes glanced right, got a horrified look on his face and did what came naturally--ran faster.

A New York police officer at the intersection gestured wildly to Silva with both hands, and another in a raincoat a few steps up 59th Street did the same. Silva said he didn't see them, but he did "see the faces of the people. I knew then I did something wrong."

He stopped, went back up 59th and turned onto West Drive, more than 60 yards behind Paredes. "I was thinking, it is more than 400 meters (left to run), so maybe I can catch him," Silva said. "Even if I can't catch him, I could push him."

He did better than that. Going uphill, he took the lead less than 400 yards from the finish line, getting a pat on the back from Paredes while going past.

Silva, whose father wanted him to give up running and work in the orange groves, is the bad boy of Mexican runners, twice being suspended for defying the country's track and field federation. Mexican runners owe him a debt because his legal challenge to the body means that he has to turn over only 7% of the $20,000, plus a Mercedes-Benz, he earned for winning Sunday.

Loroupe, a 21-year-old postal worker in Kenya, matched that prize for winning the first marathon she has ever run.

An animated sort who smiles and chatters incessantly, she laid off the lead, which was held by 1994 L.A. Marathon winner Olga Appell through the early stages. Loroupe took over in the 19th mile and looked back only after crossing the finish line. There were no women in sight.

Appell, who developed blisters, was seventh.

"This is important for me, for my family and for my tribe," Loroupe said. A Bitok, she added that she also has had trouble with Kenya's track and field federation, charging them with indifference to her tribe.

She ran eight kilometers to school as a youth. "I didn't know I was training then," she said. "I only know they would cane me if I was late."

She was early enough Sunday.

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