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    Monday, December 06, 2004

    Bassirima Soro easily won his fifth straight Tucson Marathon...barefooted



    From the Tucson Citizen by BRYAN LEE

    SORO’S TUCSON MARATHON WINS

    2004 2:22:21
    2003 2:22:12
    2002 2:20:38
    2001 2:20:00
    2000 2:18:32
    1999 2:25:02

    When the going gets tough ... the shoes come off for Bassirima Soro.

    "I had to use my experience, all my strategy to win," he said after nipping Peter Vail of Washington, D.C., at the tape to claim his sixth straight Tucson Marathon championship yesterday.

    That included shedding his bothersome shoes at mile 14 of the Oracle-to-Oro Valley course. Both runners registered a time of 2 hours, 22 minutes, 21 seconds.

    It was just like when Soro won his first title in 1999 after getting lost first and then going barefoot beginning at about the same spot in the race.

    "I got back to my familiar pace then," said Soro, who fell behind Vail in spots by 200 meters. "I was having problems. I don't run as well with shoes."

    Suzy Schumacher of Phoenix also won at the wire over close friend and teammate Karla Sokolovich in a shared time of 2:57:13. The difference was the photo finish was rather contrived after they paced each other the entire 26.2 miles. The two were using the downhill race as a tuneup for a marathon in Las Vegas next month.

    "We were talking it over," laughed Schumacher. "I said, 'you take it' and she said, 'No, you take it,' so we decided to go together."

    The "duel" between Soro, 35, and Vail, 30, was also gracious and friendly - they were passing water to each other - going into the final turn.

    That's when the natural human instinct of 'I want to win' took over.

    "I wanted to break 2:20," Vail said. "To be honest, I couldn't care less about who won - until the end. Then when I knew I wasn't going to break 2:20, it was all about having fun at the end.

    "I didn't have my (eye) contacts in and I surged at the corner before the last. Maybe that took something away from me. Then at the last turn, I thought I had him. I had my hands in the air."

    Soro, who had caught Vail with five miles to go, sprinted a smidge ahead of him at the end and swept his hand with the electronic chip down to swipe the timing device all in the same motion.

    He credited his recent cross- country experience at Pima Community College for an increased combination of intestinal fortitude and chutzpah.

    Soro enrolled at Pima in September for a full load of courses to go with two jobs and a training regimen, and placed seventh in the national cross-country finals.

    "If I hadn't run cross country and shorter races and improved my speed, I wouldn't have won," he said.

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