Silva in good Mexican company

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The Independent Online
Athletics

This Sunday's London Marathon will be of pressing interest to the 500 inhabitants of Tecomite, in the Mexican state of Vera Cruz. Depending on the result, there could be a water supply in it for them.

Two years ago, German Silva became Tecomite's most famous son in winning the New York City marathon, and when asked by a grateful state governor what gift he would like to mark the achievement, he requested that his home village be given electricity. And lo, it came to pass.

When he retained his New York title last November, the president of Mexico got on the phone to him, but Silva's next suggested project - water on tap to replace the current options of collection from wells or the nearby river - was not taken up. If he can maintain his winning run on Sunday, however, his claim will be hard to resist.

To do that, the personable Mexican will have to overcome the challenge of the only man to have run the distance in under 2hr 8min twice, Vincent Rousseau of Belgium, and his fellow countryman Dionicio Ceron, who is on for an unprecedented hat-trick of London victories.

Like Ceron, the son of a poor Mexican farmer, Silva also knows what it is like to be at the bottom of the socio-economic scale. As a youngster, he worked with his father on an orange plantation, lugging up to 100 kilograms of fruit at a time on his back. "That is why I didn't grow so much," he said with a broad smile. "And why I am strong in my legs."

He may not be the only Mexican runner to emerge in that fashion. As part of the mass entry races which he now sponsors in his home region, he donates a prize to the winner of a 500 metres race in which all competitors carry 100kg of oranges on their backs...

Silva's first experience of the marathon, in Rotterdam four years ago, was an unhappy one, as he failed to finish. But coming third in London in 1994 banished the doubts he was beginning to harbour about the distance. "That made me realise that I could be one of the best marathon runners in the world," he said.

When the Mexicans meet for only their second marathon together on Sunday, Tecomite's inhabitants will be keeping their fingers crossed. And when they watch the television highlights, whatever the result, they will know who to thank.

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