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August 18, 2002

One wrong makes a right

Runner won't let a mistake he made stop his patriotic quest

By Meri-Jo Borzilleri The Gazette

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Meri-Jo Borzilleri may be reached at 636-0259 or merijo @ gazette . com

Meet Bob Alessio. He's a bandit.

Not in the rob-and-run sense. Just the run part.

Alessio plans to compete in today's Pikes Peak Marathon, and has run about 1,000 miles - from Los Angeles to here - to do it.

He's in Colorado Springs on a stopover in his patriotic quest to run from L.A. to Boston, dedicating his journey to the victims and families of the terrorist attacks.

As a side trip, he planned to run up Pikes Peak. America's Mountain. The mountain where Katharine Lee Bates stood atop the summit, gazed upon those amber waves of grain, and wrote "America The Beautiful," one of the most stirring, patriotic songs in U.S. history.

Alessio's timing was perfect. Or so he thought.

Turns out the officials at the Pikes Peak Marathon won't let him in the race.

Alessio, 58, tried to enter two months ago, but missed the June deadline by a couple of days.

Understandable. He was swamped with trying to plan and start his run, which began in April. Because he doesn't have a TV or computer in his support vehicle, Alessio wasn't aware the deadline was approaching.

"I could have signed up in March. My fault," he said.

So Alessio will run the race illegally, as one of a projected half-dozen bandits who sneak in annually.

He won't get a number. He won't get an official time, or an official finisher's souvenir.

First-year race director Ron Ilgen had a soft spot for Alessio, but he got outvoted by the race's board of directors.

"As much as I admire his cause, if you crack the door open you just open it wider and wider as you go along," Ilgen said.

Others don't agree with the decision.

"That's just butt-stupid," said Matt Carpenter, defending marathon and Ascent champion and Pikes Peak expert.

"It bummed me out, yes," admitted Alessio, after some prying.

"But I'm always running with a positive attitude. I wish I had a number. I still hope I get one. People register late all the time."

Then, trying to be cheerful, he said, "On the other hand, I recognize the importance of having some kind of procedure."

Alessio will don a pair of red, white and blue running shorts, and his T-shirt with a red outline of the United States on it and "Run Across America" splayed on the front.

He'll take his place at the back of the 800 or so runners, where bandits traditionally go.

Race organizers have invited Alessio to speak at two pre-race gatherings, and he will. They've apologized about not giving him a number. They're agreeing to look the other way as he runs up the mountain.

"It's just the greatest thing that I've been in contact with for a long time," said Judie Game, 60, who met Alessio near Grand Junction earlier this summer. She and a friend wound up manning his support vehicle from there to here. "He's got such a purpose."

Copyright 2002, The Gazette, a Freedom Communications, Inc. Company. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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