Marathoner from Venezuela sees dream come true
“MAYBE ONE DAY we will go to New York City,” Francisco Viafara told his wife and daughter in the mid 1980s. It was a dream he thought about often while working as a field welder in Venezuela, repairing sanitation trucks and pipelines. Viafara hoped to build a better life and have the free time to do some of the things he enjoyed, like running.
Twenty years later, Viafara says with glee, “My dream has come true!”
Indeed it has. Last November, Viafara completed the ING New York City Marathon, a grueling 26-mile run, in slightly over four hours, good enough to place him near the upper third of 37,869 finishers. Not bad for a 47-year-old who began marathon training just eight months before the big race.
Viafara’s emigration to America in 1988 was a different kind of marathon, requiring determination, patience, and guts. Leaving South America and bringing his family to a new country, Viafara worked at various jobs until he could get certification with the American Welding Association and New York City. Local 5 noticed the Venezuelan’s high test scores and offered him an apprenticeship. Viafara eagerly accepted. Four years later, in 2003, he completed his instruction at the National Apprenticeship School in Kansas City, Kan. Local 5 BM-ST Jerry Connolly described Viafara as “an excellent journeyman welder and a good union man.”
As a journeyman, Viafara said he has found the free time he longed for to pursue other interests. “I’m improving my running,” he said, “thanks to the Boilermakers, who gave me a good job, so I have time for training.”
Viafara has brought down his one-mile average time from eight minutes in his first run to six minutes and 42 seconds in the New York Marathon. And he doesn’t plan to stop there. He has now competed in nearly a dozen runs of various distances.
But his fondest racing memories so far have come from the New York City Marathon. “I remember running, wearing my Boilermaker shirt, and everybody yelling, ‘Go Boilermaker, go Boilermaker; you can do it!’ And then this guy comes running up [from further back in the pack] and points to my shirt and hugs me. He says, ‘I’ve been trying to reach you, I’m also a Boilermaker, from Canada.’
“I was so happy.”
[Editor’s Note: The identity of the Canadian Boilermaker is unknown.]