If someone had told Roberto Urquilla a couple of years ago that Rocky Hill would become his playground, he wouldn’t have believed them.
But nearly every morning since the spring of 2014, Urquilla has run from his job at a storage facility in Exeter to the top of Rocky Hill and back. Sometimes he runs around the hill. Other days, he sprints along the canal at its base.
He typically does one form of it or another six times a week, running about 50 to 60 miles total. But it hasn’t been that way for long for the 42-year-old Farmersville resident. For most of his life, he didn’t even associate himself with the word runner.
That all changed when his wife, Marlyn, signed him up for his first race in 2014.
I went from not running at all to running 12 miles a day.
Farmersville resident and 2016 Boston Marathon entrant Roberto Urquilla
Marlyn had been running as a form of exercise for two years but wanted to get a taste of a real race, so she signed up for a charity 10K in Los Angeles. She didn’t want to do it alone, so she signed up her husband, too, not realizing that a single race would shape Urquilla’s future for the better.
He placed second among all men, sparking a passionate pursuit that will continue Monday at the 120th Boston Marathon.
“I went from not running at all to running 12 miles a day,” Urquilla said. “I just really liked it.”
Shortly after the 10K, he registered for his first 26.2-miler, the Ojai Marathon in 2014, and finished in 3 hours, 29 minutes.
Crossing that finish line for the first time was intoxicating.
“It was a great feeling,” he said. “All I thought was that I have to do it again.”
He has finished three more: the Two Cities in 2014 and Modesto and Ojai last year. He qualified for Boston at Modesto in 3:15 – matching the required time for his 40-44 age group before trimming that to 3:11 at Ojai.
“When I had first heard of the Boston Marathon, I knew I would get there,” Urquilla said. “I didn’t know how long it would take me to get to Boston, but I knew I would.”
He runs for his own reasons, as all runners do. To escape the grind of the work week and to free his mind.
Roberto is an example of what the community looks for: a man who built himself up from nothing.
Salvador Rodriguez, distant relative and family friend
Not everything in Urquilla’s life has been as carefree as running.
He’s faced adversity on nearly every stride he’s taken off the running path, while working tirelessly for a family of four.
Urquilla was born in El Salvador and witnessed civil war. At 15, he was sent by his father to the United States in hopes of escaping the violence.
“I had to leave,” Urquilla said. “You couldn’t even go to school. Both sides wanted boys (to fight).”
The rest of the family stayed: his parents, Agustin Urquilla and Maria de Jesus Morales; and his sisters, Lilian and Bertha. Alone, Urquilla crossed through Guatemala and Mexico and eventually the Rio Grande before settling in Los Angeles.
Four years after the son made his way to a new country, Agustin was killed in the war.
Urquilla started his life in the United States selling fruit at a Los Angeles market before moving to Farmersville and eventually obtaining a guest-worker visa that led to U.S. citizenship in 2007.
Though he has been back to El Salvador to visit, he continues to work on his second life in the United States and learned to cherish every moment with his wife and their children, Elizabeth and Robert.
Urquilla runs only in the early mornings when his children are asleep or at school. He doesn’t dare let running get in the way of family time. So even when it came to entering a monumental event like the Boston Marathon, Urquilla used the opportunity for a family vacation.
I just want to enjoy the race. Boston is already my grand prize.
Roberto Urquilla on running in the 120th Boston Marathon
His wife and children will be cheering him on in Boston. The next day they’ll fly to Mexico City for a week’s stay.
Exactly where or if Urquilla finishes at Boston isn’t an issue – in fact, he hasn’t been able to train fully for two months as he nurses his way back from a hip injury. He just wants to make his family proud.
“My family supports me in everything I do,” Urquilla said. “I just want to enjoy the race. Boston is already my grand prize. I’m just going to enjoy it. That’s all.”
120th Boston Marathon
The following names are local runners who will be competing at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18.
- Wave 1 (7 a.m. start): Joe Amendt, 47, Clovis; Steven Waite, 25, Fresno; J.K. Lundberg, 36, Fresno; Justin Harris, 39, Visalia;
- Wave 2 (7:25): Roberto Urquilla, 42, Farmersville; Chris Montross, 55, Fresno; Ted Albertson, 52, Fresno; Mark Schmidt, 46, Kingsburg
- Wave 3 (7:50): Michael Baumann, 59, Visalia; John Volkman, 65, Fresno; Oliver Valenzuela, 62, Clovis;
- Wave 4 (8:15): Bill Hastrup, 65, Fresno
- Wave 2 (7:25 a.m. start): Tracy Coke, 47, Fresno
- Wave 3 (7:50): Stephanie Ormond, 33, Clovis; Heidi Proctor, 25, Visalia; Michele Van Ornum, 47, Fresno; Michele Visser, 37, Kingsburg; Norma Hollnagel, 38, Kingsburg; Susan Ruble, 50, Fresno; Christine Card, 36, Fresno; Angelica Ruiz, 37, Tulare; Mayra Mendoza, 40, Fresno; Jennifer Mihalcin, 39, Visalia; Rachel Amundsen 43, Fresno; Laura Fenster, 51, Fresno; Renee Saxman, 55, Visalia;
- Wave 4 (8:15): Sally Lovejoy, 59, Visalia
- Monday: 5 a.m. PDT
- TV: NBC Sports Network (5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.)
- Webcast: http://watchlive.baa.org/