Alex Roca made history last Sunday by completing the Barcelona marathon. He did it with a time of 5 hours, 50 minutes and 51 seconds, but the Catalan became the first athlete with 76 percent physical disability to cover 42,195 meters. A feat he had already achieved: 5 triathlons, 5 half marathons, a Titan Desert or a Pilguim Race. Roca (Barcelona, 1991) communicates using sign language and has reduced mobility on the left side of his body due to a cerebral palsy he suffered at the age of six months. Then he suffered a herpetic viral encephalitis which led to this disability which did not stop him from fulfilling his dreams. He goes to the ABC meeting with Mari Carmen Maza, his wife, his friend, his confidant. She is the one who reads Alex’s signals and gives voice to his thoughts.
-What value do you give for finishing the marathon?
– I still can’t qualify it, but it’s one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever achieved in my life.
-What was the hardest?
-Preparation. On a physical level, because I find myself with many difficulties: a physical disability of 76 percent, a very clubfoot with a large curvature and, above all, many problems with eating during the race. I can’t eat solids on the run and this has been a huge hindrance. Just to tell him that in the key workout, after five kilometers I tried to eat solid food, I choked and luckily my personal trainer, my mother in law and my wife were there to save me because I thought I would stay there. At the last minute, three weeks before, he had to change his entire meal plan, taking into account that at each stop he had to ingest 288 milligrams of carbohydrates with 300 milliliters of water… In short, madness.
-And what went through your head during those 42 kilometers?
-I was really going through situations of all kinds. At some point I felt like I couldn’t make it, but I also had others where I looked around me and felt gratified for everything I was conquering. I really looked at the whole team and thought, I’m lucky that I have so many people who support and love me.
-Is it possible to forget the limitations sometimes?
-I often forget my limitations because I consider myself a very ambitious and highly motivated person, and when I have a goal in mind I feel so anxious that sometimes I eliminate all obstacles, even if they exist.
-You are the living example of wanting is power…
-I don’t consider myself the example of wanting is power, but I consider myself a person who fights to make my dreams come true. Willpower is power when willpower, work, motivation and teamwork come together. If you want it, you cannot directly, but you must fight it, surround yourself with very powerful people and look for the strategy by which you can achieve the goal.
-But you must feel like a reference…
-I don’t feel like an example but I notice that there are people for whom I am a reference and for me it is a source of pride. I always like to remember an experience that happened to me one day: I was running in Barcelona and a boy came up to me and said: “I tried to commit suicide and I couldn’t, but I found your story in your videos and now I want to live life and I play sports to overcome my moments of difficulty. Then I thought: «Alex, you are doing something right in life».
– Does this backpack, this responsibility, weigh?
-Of course it’s heavy. I’m not fake, I’m very sincere and that weighs a lot. I suffered a lot of pressure, but I like it because it motivates and pushes me to achieve my dreams, but I am often afraid of letting the world down. But I think if I gave my all along the way, nobody can tell me anything because I gave all my heart, body, soul and mind to reach the goal. If I didn’t succeed, it’s not because I didn’t offer everything, but the first thing is health, always.
-Where is the key to your fight?
-For what the marathon does in the word resilience because when I’m in a moment where I see that I can’t, I remember the moments of difficulty when I was little and I think that if I could handle it, how could I not be able to handle it? Even so, there are times when I would stop, I wasn’t going to continue… but I look around at the people who love and support me…
-How do you carry that when you’re a kid?
-I remember a lot that when I was little there was an outside world that scared me and it was the street world because I received a lot of disrespect, looks and negative comments. And I had another part of my life which was when I was at home or when I went to school. That world made me feed myself positively and evolve as a person and now, in times of difficulty, I always turn to those people who have always been with me and who give me strength and strength to continue. This is brutal. I eat a lot from the people around me, they are my strength and my vitamin, but I also believe that I am a person with a lot of mental strength.
What role did your parents play in your life?
-During my childhood and adolescence my parents were very important to me. They were always with me and accompanied me through everything, like any other child. They helped me to grow and evolve.
-When did you choose the sport?
-Since I was little I loved football. At school I started playing with Ronaldo Nazario’s shirt and as I grew up I tried many sports, like skiing, tennis… I liked it, but I didn’t really practice it until about nine years ago I did my first run, five kilometers, and I really enjoyed it . But I did one or two a year. In 2016 I did my first triathlon and then I felt that I loved doing sports and in 2017, with my uncle, I did a tandem bike. In 2018 I tried Titan Desert and since then I haven’t stopped fighting. This race changed my life.
-What a change? What does the sport bring you?
-It gives me communication and now it’s part of my job and I give talks with my wife Mari Carmen to make people aware of the importance of inclusion and the benefits of sport, but above all of the values we must have in our lives. Our goal is that when the conference ends, attendees will say, “Now I have goals to strive for, dreams to fulfill, minds to change, and people to tell you I love you.”
-Does sport eliminate barriers or do they still exist?
-I, while running, forget that I have a disability. I believe that it is the person himself who must remove his barriers. Society has to fight a lot, but we have to send a message to each other and that is that those who arrive last sometimes arrive happier than the first. The Barcelona race record holder was very happy, but I don’t think he was any happier than I was… That’s removing barriers. Winning or reaching a big mark is not achieving success, but what you do makes you happy.
What’s the next challenge now?
-Be happy every day and assimilate the marathon, because it will cost me dearly. Now we have to see everything that the marathon process generated to apply it in conferences and show the world so that everyone can taste what the path before, during and after a marathon can really offer.
Barca and Rafael Nadal
Which athletes do you admire?
-My idol is my grandfather, but on a sporting level I always had Ronaldinho as a reference because he always entered the field with a beautiful smile and that’s how I am, I always leave smiling. But now I’m loving it and I’d like to meet Rafa Nadal because I think he’s a person with incalculable mental strength and indescribable willpower. Also, I had several idols throughout my life, also from Barcelona, because I’m very cool. I respect that each one is from a different club, but I love Barça and on Sunday, after the marathon, I went to the Camp Nou without being able to walk, lame, lame, to cheer for my team. It was a round day. When I was little I used to go to the field because everyone was looking at the game and not at me and that gave me peace of mind and football has helped me to be happy. I managed to finish a marathon and also, the club of my heart won. a round day
-He’ll be happy, half a league in his pocket…
-We’ll see. I think so, I hope so. I love Barça very much and, in addition, I have been an ambassador for their Foundation for a year and a half and transmitting these values that they have to society makes me very happy…
-He also told me that his idol was his grandfather…
It’s hard for me to talk about it. He went to heaven two months ago and now I cry when I talk about him. When I was little, when the doctors said I would never walk, my grandfather said yes, and when I was three I started walking because he put a towel under my arm every afternoon, every day, so I could try. and try. new step. I started walking at the age of three, but it doesn’t matter when you do things, but the value you place on doing them. And he also taught me how to drive and gave me his car. How could my grandfather not be my idol if he was a vital reference for me. He died two months ago and was still driving. And he was 92 years old.
-Your life is a good tribute to him…
-On Sunday, when I reached the finish line, I remembered him so much… And I ran the whole race with the necklace I gave him eight years ago. And when I crossed the finish line, I asked the organization if anyone could get me a medal because I had to take it to the cemetery for my grandfather and grandmother, who were two great references for me and two people who loved me from the heart. I always gave him all the medals and told him all the stories because he was someone who always had ears to hear me and the more I explained to him the more he wanted to know. The love he felt for me was incredible.
– A few years ago he got married. He also showed that there are no barriers in love…
-Success I don’t know, but I got the best girl in the world. When I was little I thought I would never have a partner. I saw myself differently and I saw my friends talking to girls and I thought, “Will they notice me?” She has known her for over six years and since then we have spent almost 24 hours together and for me she is the luck of my life. We fight together in challenges and in life and it’s something indescribable.
-And how did you do it?
-First of all, to say that she was the one who wrote to me, but the trick was not to make things easy from the beginning. That’s how I got her…
-And when you see them together, do you think people judge you unjustifiably?
-Quite. But we don’t care because we know what we have and what we always had.