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Two-time NYC Marathon champion runs across Mexico

Germán Silva ran the entire length of Mexico, trekking across deserts, mountains and cartel territory

In 1994, Germán Silva won his first New York City Marathon after taking a wrong turn, becoming only the third Mexican to win the marathon. The next year, Silva repeated his feat to become the first Mexican to win two titles. Now at age 54, the once 2:08-marathoner has completed his greatest journey yet – Project Pinole, running 5,000 kilometres across Mexico from Tijuana to Tulum.

Growing up in Veracruz, Mexico, Silva sold oranges in the streets to help support his large family of 13 siblings, and his running.

Family always came first for Silva, but his passion for running led him to represent Mexico at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics in the 10,000m and marathon. He also won a silver medal at the World Half Marathon Championships in 1994.

He began Project Pinole four months ago in Tijuana on Nov. 5, and he completed his 3,000-plus mile run on Feb. 20, in Tulum, running 120 marathons over 111 days.

The goal for Silva was to alter Mexico’s sometimes negative public image of and reveal some of the its beautiful regions. Silva constantly had a crew following him for security and support, which helped him shoot video footage for a documentary on his run, to be released later this year.

There were no easy days for Silva, as temperatures began to soar to the low-40s C while he was making his way across the Yucatán Peninsula and Campeche regions, though while crossing the Sierra Madre mountains, he also encountered snow on the descent.

“Parts of the journey were really hard,” he told U.S. journalist Kevin Sieff of the Washington Post. Sieff, a 2:48 marathoner and journalist who joined Silva on part of his journey, just north of Mexico City. In his article on Silva, he documents Silva’s experience with the locals, the heat and dealing with members of the infamous Sinaloa cartel.

Silva was stopped several times by cartel gunmen at checkpoints along the road. When he was confronted, he described his cross-country run to the men, and they let him continue. In several cases, the cartel members radioed ahead to let other checkpoints know that a runner was entering their territory. According to Sieff, Silva even handed out Brooks running shirts to their children.

Once Silva reached Tulum, there was a large audience to greet him for his beach finish. “I am very grateful for my journey and your support,” Silva said to his followers on social media. I will forever remember this in my heart.” In 2014, Silva was inducted into the New York Marathon hall of fame with fellow running icons Kathrine Switzer and George Spitz.