Martin Rodriguez returned to Carla Yngve’s English for Language Learners class at Indian River High School Feb. 21, 18 years after graduating as a 290-pound teenager with a dream of playing soccer.
Martin went to Delaware Tech after high school and got his associate degree. He also began to run to lose weight. He dropped weight rapidly, and he discovered he had the tenacity to train as well as the talent to run fast. Now at 35, he trains 60 miles per week, runs 100 races per year, and he is getting ready for the Boston Marathon in April, having qualified in the Rehoboth marathon with a personal best time of 2:58.
“I was nervous before speaking,” Rodriguez said. “More nervous than before any race. I just wanted to tell my story to the kids to let them know they can do anything they set their minds to.”
The ELL class was uniformly Hispanic, and two reporters from hoyendelaware.com also spoke Spanish. Martin asked, “How many of you were born here?” A couple of hands went up. He told them he was born in Mexico and came to the United States when he was in second grade. He asked what country they came from. Most were from Mexico. There was trust all around the room, but the only personal story told was Martin, the Verizon Man, who runs 10 miles most mornings before the sun comes up somewhere near Selbyville.
The floor was open to questions after the 60-minute presentation, and for the first time Martin spoke Spanish. The room was brightened by beaming faces. There were lots of questions from boys and girls. A young girl asked if she could be a runner if she worked hard enough. Others asked about his diet. There were plenty of other questions, which drew laughter, but if you didn’t speak Spanish (only this writer), you just saw happy happening – it’s the universal language.
“I'm so proud of Martin, and I am so thankful to be a part of his journey,” said teacher Carla Yngve. “You never know when, where and in what capacity you will see students again. You just hope it’s a positive story like Martin’s.”