Erick Obdulio Chavez Chox had just run 13.1 miles. He wiped the sweat off his face with his blue tank top, which bore the words “Proyecto Don Bosco” in white, and flashed a wide smile.
But before he had a chance to celebrate his victory Sunday at the Long Island Marathon’s half-marathon, Chavez Chox ran away. Literally.
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His younger brother, Wilson Damian Chavez Chox, clad in an identical top, had turned into the wrong lane. Wilson got funneled into the 10k slot about 100 yards away from the finish line.
Erick, 25, noticed and ran to his brother’s side — where he had spent nearly the entire race — and pulled Wilson, 23, into the proper lane.
“We helped each other the whole race,” Erick, who lives in Guatemala, said through an interpreter.
Erick won in 1 hour, 12 minutes and 20 seconds. Wilson finished second in 1:13:23.
The two brothers grew up racing in Guatemalan hill country. They had never raced in the United States, but Deacon Rich LaRossa of St. Raymond’s Church in East Rockaway hatched a plan to change that last June.
LaRossa is the director of Proyecto Don Bosco, a foundation that he said provides 200 Guatemalans with financial support for education, food and health care. Erick and Wilson are his godsons, and he visited them and other beneficiaries of the foundation in Guatemala last summer.
“They came and asked me for some money to enter a race down there,” LaRossa said. “They did well, and the next day they came back with a huge trophy. I said this is serious stuff. They’re not just playing around.”
LaRossa helped the brothers apply for passports and visas. Ultimately, they were approved. They flew in on April 24 and will depart on Friday, having had the opportunity not only to compete in the half-marathon but also to explore New York City.
“We’re country boys, so there were lots of people,” Wilson said through an interpreter.
Even if one of them got lost in the shuffle, the other was there. Just like Sunday.
“This,” Erick said, “has been a dream.”