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N.Y. still apple of their eye

The happy couple is back, and New York is at their feet.

This time, they are running for personal glory and a chance to help others.

German Silva and Tegla Loroupe have been virtually adopted by the city, not only because of their running success but also because of their bubbly personalities.

The diminutive marathoners, in turn, have fallen in love with New York.

"I feel like I'm at home here," said Silva, a 29-year-old Mexican. "This (winning the 1994 and 1995 New York City Marathon) has been a very nice thing in my life."

He and Loroupe, the women's winner the same years as Silva, will be there today when the New York City Marathon again turns the Big Apple into a runner's heaven.

With Silva skipping the 1996 race because it was too soon after the Olympics, where he finished sixth, Giacomo Leone of Italy was a surprise winner.

Leone did not receive nearly as much adulation as did Silva for his first New York City victory.

Silva's initial triumph had some unusual circumstances. Holding a short lead over compatriot Benjamin Paredes about a quarter-mile from the finish, Silva, unfamiliar with the course at the time, made a wrong turn.

A city policeman got Silva turned around quickly and he rallied to beat the shocked Paredes by two seconds in the closest finish in the race's 28-year history.

In 1995, the 5-foot-2, 110-pound Silva stayed on course but didn't give himself much more margin for error, beating Paul Evans of Britain by five seconds.

Portugal's Domingos Castro and Italy's Stefano Baldini are Silva's top challengers.

Loroupe, a 24-year-old Kenyan, missed a third consecutive title last year when she went out at a record pace, then faltered in the late stages and struggled home seventh with cramps and dizziness.

Romania's Anuta Catuna, who won last year when Loroupe slowed, is back to defend her title, though her career best is 2 hours, 28 minutes, 18 seconds, to Loroupe's 2:22:07.

Silva is running for the children of the streets of Mexico City. He joined the Mexican charity Solo por Ayudar (Only to Help) during the summer after seeing the poverty endured by children in the slums of Mexico City.

If Loroupe breaks the course record, she will use the $10,000 to provide school tuition for children of her Pokot tribe in Kenya.

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