Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe
Boston Marathon Course section

No second thoughts this time

Ecuador's Guerra has high hopes

By Susan Bickelhaupt, Globe Staff, 4/13/2002

Silvio Guerra has gotten used to being in the shadow of the winner at the Boston Marathon. In 1999, he was runner-up to Kenyan Joseph Chebet. Last year, Korean Lee Bong Ju slipped ahead of him.

So the runner from Ecuador has never broken the tape, never been given a laurel wreath crown. Just: ''Congratulations on being No. 2; better luck next time.''

Guerra, 33, is determined to get out from the shadows and grab the spotlight in Monday's Marathon.

''When I'm training, I'm thinking about many things, but when I'm focused on a race like this one, I'm thinking to come and win the race,'' said Guerra, who divides his training time between Boulder, Colo., and Quito, Ecuador. ''That's what I'm training for, and that's my goal - to win the race.''

Guerra, who finished the Marathon in 10th place in 2000, kept up with the leaders until the very end last year.

''There were only three guys for the last 3 miles,'' he said. ''Then it was in the last half-mile when I just couldn't keep up.''

Lee beat Guerra by 24 seconds.

Unlike other countries that practically send delegations of athletes to the Marathon, Guerra will be the sole elite runner from his country.

''I would like to come here, or any race, with a team, so it's kind of sad,'' he said. ''It doesn't really hurt, but I would love to see more people coming from my country.''

Guerra said running isn't a highly regarded sport in his country.

''Everybody talks about soccer, especially right now, because they just qualified for the World Cup,'' he said. ''And nobody cares about the other sports. And also there is no support for the running community in Ecuador. The people, they have to suffer to just get a pair of shoes. It's very hard, nobody cares, nobody wants to sponsor runners. So that's why we don't see more runners coming from there.''

But Guerra has made a mark in his country and holds national records in the marathon, 10k, and 5k. He represented Ecuador in the 1996 Olympics in the 10,000-meter race, then moved up to the marathon. He placed 10th in his debut at the Tokyo International Marathon in 1997. He represented his country again at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and finished 14th in the marathon.

His personal best came in 1997 when he finished ninth (2:09:49) in the Chicago Marathon.

Even though he would like other countrymen to come to Boston, Guerra said it shouldn't make a lot of difference to be running solo.

''Well, it's not really necessary because Boston has a lot of good runners,'' he said. ''You just have to get in there and push yourself. But I really like the course, that's why I'm coming back again.''

Guerra said he'll have his eye on defending champion Lee - and everyone else.

''For sure the winner of last year is the favorite, but you never know about the whole group of Africans, so you have to be prepared,'' Guerra said. ''You can't just focus on one or two guys, but you have to be ready to compete with everybody. For sure, there are at least 10 guys to beware of.''

A runner from Ecuador has never won the Marathon, although they have come close. In addition to Guerra's two second-place finishes, Rolando Vera came in third in 1990.

Although there probably won't be many Ecuadoran flags along the route, Guerra's mother and sister - one of 10 siblings - will be there to cheer him on.

And, of course, rooting for him to not be a runner-up again.

''I've never won a marathon yet,'' he said. ''No. 2 is not bad, but it's always better to win.''

This story ran on page E1 of the Boston Globe on 4/13/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

Race Day Coverage
Stuck at work? Check out out stride-by-stride webcast for up-to-the-minute Boston Marathon updates.