Monday, May 06, 2002

Late entry, but an early finish

Men's champ Velasco registered Saturday after half marathon

By Michael Perry,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cornelio Velasco ran a half marathon in Indianapolis on Saturday. When his coach, Uriel Lara, was signing up another runner for the Flying Pig Marathon late that afternoon at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center, Velasco asked about running the marathon, too.

        “How do you feel?” Lara asked.

        “I feel good. I think I can run it,” Velasco said.

        “I saw in his face he wanted to run,” Lara said Sunday. “I told him, "If you're going to run, you're going to win the marathon.' I was joking.”

        Both runner and coach were surprised Sunday when Velasco won the fourth Flying Pig — his first marathon victory — in two hours, 31 minutes and 13 seconds.

        It was the slowest time for a men's Pig winner but good enough to beat Isaac Barnes of Williamsport, Ohio, (2:31:31) and Scott Young of Tucson, Ariz., (2:31:53), both of whom tried to catch Velasco in the final 4 miles but came up short.

        “I felt really strong finishing,” Barnes said. “I wished I had started moving up a little sooner. Scott and I were running together (with fourth-place finisher Tim Rieger II) about mile 22, and Cornelio was out of sight, just barely. I thought we could get him. And, almost.”

        Young, who grew up in Cincinnati, was ahead for the first 13 miles, before Velasco — who lost some time when he had to stop and use a bathroom around the 7-mile mark — took the lead for good.

        It was Velasco's 10th marathon, following eight in Mexico and one in Chicago.

        “I'm very happy,” he said afterward.

        Velasco, 32, is a native of Oaxaca, Mexico, who moved to Chicago two years ago and is working in construction. He speaks little English. Lara did all the talking at the postrace press conference.

        Barnes, 26, finished second in 2000 (2:31:43) and third last year (2:32:10) and had his best time in three Flying Pigs on Sunday.

        When he got to the starting line and looked around, he didn't see two-time defending champion Rudolf Jun and thought he might have a chance to win the race. He did, however, recognize Velasco, who had signed up right next to him Saturday afternoon and also stayed in the hotel room next door to his.

        “I ended up running the first 10 (miles) with him, and then he just shot up there — way up there,” Barnes said.

        Lara said Velasco had never run a marathon the day after a half marathon.

        “He's got a lot of discipline,” Lara said. “He's real consistent in practice.”

        Lara, also a native of Mexico, said he has been running 30 years and coaching since 1989. He vowed to be back in 2003 with Velasco.

        “I think next year we're going to come and do better,” Lara said.


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