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Garcia Runs to His Own Beat, Wins

Bach Bay Classic race: L.A. resident passes Gidabuday and white-wigged composer to take $500 prize.


NEWPORT BEACH — Ruben Garcia comes from Mexico and Wilhelm Gidabuday from Tanzania, countries where running is slightly more popular than classical music. But Sunday morning at the Bach Bay Classic 8K run, Garcia and Gidabuday gained a new appreciation for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the 18th century German composer.

With the sounds of Bach and other classical composers playing in the background, Garcia and Gidabuday dueled each other and a mystery man in a long white wig through the Back Bay estuary and wildlife preserve for a $500 prize.

Garcia, Gidabuday and the wig-wearing man--former Cal State Fullerton runner Steve Frisone--ran together for most of the 4.9-mile race. But Garcia and Gidabuday left Frisone at the four-mile mark, ensuring for only the second time in the race's six-year history, someone would win money for beating Bach.

Garcia, who lives in Los Angeles and runs for the Mexican Marines, eventually kicked past Gidabuday with 300 meters to go and won the Bach Classic and $500 in a time of 23 minutes 48 seconds. Gidabuday finished in 23:54 and Frisone--a.k.a. Bach--finished in 24:12.

"I never really heard of Bach," Garcia said through a translator. "But the music was very good."

Gidabuday said he also enjoyed the soothing chamber music, played uninterrupted by three quartets along the race route.

"I wasn't worried about that guy with the wig too much," said Gidabuday, who lives in Riverside. "I just knew I had to follow this guy Bach and then pass him."

Frisone, who attended Laguna Hills High, was picked to play Bach by race organizers a few weeks ago because he had won several local road races. But once Gidabuday and a Kenyan entered the run, Marc Corradina, the event's co-director, said he figured the $500 was in jeopardy. If Frisone had held off Gidabuday and Garcia, he could have collected $600, $300 more than he got for playing Bach.

"I looked at this as a lot of fun coming in here," Frisone said. "I was honored to be picked as Bach. But once I got here, I started to feel a little pressure. I thought, 'Hey, there's a $500 bounty on my head.' "

Frisone, who has run in the Bach Classic but has never come close to catching Bach, said he nearly forgot who he was impersonating until the spectators along the Back Bay reminded him.

"They kept yelling 'Beat Bach, Beat Bach,' " he said. "I thought the wig would bother me, but I didn't even realize I had it on after the first mile."

But Frisone eventually realized Gidabuday and Garcia were too fast for a white-haired composer, who has been dead more than 200 years.

"They just kept surging," Frisone said. "I was hurting pretty bad at four miles and I thought they would be too. But I guess not."

Frisone doesn't care much for classical music either, but he said that might change after Sunday.

"I don't listen to music when I'm in my car," he said. "But if they give me some tapes of Bach, I think I'll start listening to it. It sounded pretty nice."

The Bach Classic, which also included a half-marathon and a 2K children's race, drew more than 2,500 competitors and raised more than $15,000 for Hope House, a long-term residential alcohol and drug rehabilitation center for men and women.

Originally, the concept of the Bach Bay was to "Beat the Music"--finish the race before the music stopped. But Don Gillman, one of the event's organizers, decided "Beating Bach" would be a better idea.

"There are so many road races like this," Gillman said. "If you don't have something unique about your race, you're not going to make it."

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