German Silva

In New York City’s Central Park Friday, German Silva was presented with the Abebe Bikila Award, an annual prize named for the great Ethiopian runner who won gold medals in the marathon at the 1960 Olympics in Rome and the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

Abebe Bikila

Central Park is an appropriate place for the 43-year-old Silva to receive the honor. It’s near the finish of two of his greatest triumphs, at the 1994 and 1995 New York City Marathons. During the ’94 race, he recovered from a wrong turn in the final mile that left him behind fellow Mexican Benjamin Paredes. Silva rallied to beat Paredes by two seconds, an incident that earned him the nickname “Wrong Way Silva.”

But Silva is known for much more than making a wrong turn on the marathon course. The Abebe Bikila Award, handed out by the New York Road Runners

Paul Tergat at VOA

club, is given to people who have made outstanding contributions to long distance running. The 2010 winner was Kenyan star Paul Tergat, who won the 2005 New York City Marathon and then a few days later visited our Voice of America headquarters here in Washington, D.C.

In his acceptance speech, Tergat said, “The history of marathon running is incomplete without the solid and indelible mark of the late Abebe Bikila’s contribution, and I am so proud to be associated with this award.”

German Silva says he’s dedicating the award to his family and all his Mexican friends, and he has a lot of them. During his career, Silva has organized running events in small rural communities, encouraged children to run and distributed running shoes to local groups throughout Mexico.