Running in a New Land, Father By Her Side

October 30, 2013 at 10:45am EST | by Kristine Smith, NYRR News Service

Mariangela Solorzano lives in Dumont, NJ. Her father, Nicolas, lives in Caracas, Venezuela, nearly 2,300 miles away.

He started running 40 years ago, when he began doing 5Ks as a stress reliever. She started running three years ago after she saw people “much older” running faster than she could in Central Park, and when she was looking for a way to connect with America.

“It’s my favorite place to run,” the younger Solorzano said of the park in a telephone interview yesterday. “I love seeing all the different people. You’re running hard and you see an 80-year-old pass you and it makes you want to keep going.”  

Both graduated from Simon Bolivar University in Caracas and both are engineers. The younger Solorzano came to the United States to work and learn English, settling in California at the start of the new millennium. Alone, with no family in the United States, she became entrenched in her career and spent too many hours driving to and from work, losing time she could have spent making friends and staying healthy. Feeling lonely and disconnected, she moved across country in 2009, and the next year a friend encouraged her to become a member of New York Road Runners. 

“I always try to show the people that I was happy, but in reality I was sometimes sad and unhealthy,” she wrote in an email.

Running changed her outlook. Mariangela has since finished her first marathon in Philadelphia and has volunteered and run at many NYRR events. She and her father entered the ING New York City Marathon lottery in 2010 and 2011, but their names weren’t drawn. Instead, when Nicolas came to visit his daughter in New York two years ago, he finished his first-ever 13.1 mile race, the NYRR Staten Island Half-Marathon, in 2:01.

Last year, he came from Venezuela to see his daughter run the marathon, which was cancelled after Superstorm Sandy. This year, they will run together on Sunday in his first-ever 26.2-mile adventure. The two kicked off the week by running in Sunday’s Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff, a 5-mile race in Central Park.

“We ran 16 miles together last weekend. It was his first long run and he’s much faster than me,” Mariangela said as she talked about decorating the shirts they will run in on Sunday and the pancakes and pasta they’ll eat the day before.

She says that her mom, friends, and boyfriend plan to watch for the pair at mile 17 and again at the edge of the park in which Mariangela started the sport and began to find her place in America. “We’re ready. We’re excited. I just want to finish with my Dad.”