Some mistakes are impossible to live down. Just ask Germán Silva, a decorated Mexican distance runner and renowned humanitarian who will forever be known for a misstep at the 25.5-mile mark of the 1994 New York City Marathon. It was there that Silva, the race’s co-leader, took a wrong turn into Central Park. That error opened up a window of opportunity for his training partner, Benjamin Paredes, with whom he’d been racing. Amazingly, after realizing his mistake, Silva made up the 12 or 13 seconds it cost him and overtook Paredes in the final stretch, winning by two seconds. “Wrong Way Silva,” as he became known, used his race earnings and fame to bring electricity to his village, and the following year, he again won the New York City Marathon.
Going the Distance(s)
Born in 1968 in Zacatlan, Puebla, Silva grew up one of 13 children in Tecomate, a village in the Mexican state of Veracruz. As a boy, he logged five miles a day running to and from school. He achieved great success, placing sixth in the 10,000m at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and achieving the same place in the marathon at the 1996 Atlanta Games. In 1994, Silva won a silver medal at the IAFF World Half-Marathon Championships in Oslo, running a personal best time of 1:00:28. His personal best in the marathon came in 1998, when he clocked 2:08:56 in Boston.
Since retiring from professional running in 2001, Silva coached elite and recreational athletes, and serving as head coach of La Loma Altitude Training Center in San Luis Potosí. His philanthropic efforts have included distributing running shoes to children throughout Mexico and organizing events to encourage running in rural communities. In 2011, Silva won NYRR’s Abebe Bikila Award, which honors distance runners who’ve made major contributions to the sport, both on and off the course.
|1990||Central American and Caribbean Games 3000m Steeplechase||9:01.26|
|1992||Barcelona Olympic Games 10,000m||28:20.19|
|1994||IAAF World Half Marathon Championships||1:00:28|
|1994||New York City Marathon||2:11:21|
|1995||New York City Marathon||2:11:00|
|1996||Atlanta Olympic Games Marathon||2:14:29|