“Confidence in your mind and body grows with every workout”
Germán Madrazo, 46, is an Olympic athlete and owner of a specialist store for runners in Texas, USA. At the age of 43, he crossed the finishing line of the most important race in his life: the 15 km Cross Country Ski race at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games. Germán still has many dreams to fulfill, including running the Marathon des Sables, skiing the Vasaloppet and running the Boston Marathon… However, there are many other goals in his future beyond sport, such as inspiring others to overcome their own challenges. His next adventure involves being part of the coaching team on the Kilómetros de confianza (Miles of trust) campaign, for which people are sought who wish to take up a challenge by preparing for a marathon. Germán Madrazo is one of the specialists who will be advising, coaching and guiding the participants in this challenge.
How is sport related to confidence?
It’s everything. In sport, your performance comes down to you, the effort you put in, every workout, every run. When you train hard and see results, you learn to trust yourself. And when you train more and achieve things you previously thought were impossible, like a marathon, an ironman or the Olympics, you learn to believe in your capabilities and that nothing is impossible.
Can you share a story about triumph through sport?
I remember a woman who was divorced, sexually abused and overweight. She came to my store and told me that she wanted to buy some shoes, that she was going to start running to escape her problems… While trying on different models, she asked to see my Ironman finisher medals. And she said, “someday I’d like to do that.” I told her that the shoes she was buying were suitable for running her first Ironman. She smiled and told me she would never be able to do it. A few weeks later, she came back into my store and asked me to train her… The rest is history. She has now rebuilt her life and finished several Ironmans.
I could also tell you my own story. I was assaulted by criminals and left on the road… I overcame that crisis with sport. Sport restored my confidence. I picked myself up again and here I am.
“When you train hard and see results, you learn to trust yourself”
When you heard that cross-country skiing is the most strenuous sport, you decided to try it. Why?
Because throughout my life I have found in that pain, that total exhaustion you feel when your body has no more to give, a friend who never lets you down, a mentor. That kind of pain has taught me to be a better person, to be stronger. The challenge of learning a new sport, of seeking to face myself, my fears and having to find a new version of my best self is an opportunity that I can’t miss.
You don’t grow when you keep doing what you already know, you grow when you do something new. And I wanted to meet that Germán, full of fear but ready to start from scratch and face a new challenge.
You need to have confidence in your body and mind to dare to compete. How do you build up your confidence so much you get to the Olympics?
You need to be willing to do it, to compete and have trust. Confidence in your mind and body grows with every workout. Every time you beat a personal best… That confidence grows a little more every day. It grows by following a good nutrition regime, a good training plan, by achieving your intermediate goals and, above all, it grows as you picture yourself crossing the finishing line.
Yes, confidence is built over time. It takes a few days to believe you can run 5 km, a few months to believe you can run a marathon and a lifetime of work to believe you can get to the Olympics. The question is, how long are you willing to spend believing in yourself? How long are you willing to spend fighting and not giving up?
And even after a defeat?
Only death can defeat us. Other defeats aren’t really defeats, they’re just evidence that you’re not quite ready to triumph yet. It means you have to keep training and try again. The only way to lose is by throwing in the towel.
Someone who wants to keep fighting will never lose. Because they know that tomorrow at dawn, the world gives us another opportunity to fight. Whether we win or lose, we won’t give up. Because we’re fighters and we know that in the end, winning or losing is measured by the number of days we go out and fight, without compromises or breaks. By the number of times we get up off the ground, wipe the mud off our face and decide to go on.
“Confidence in your mind and body grows with every workout”
You’ve tried athletics, tennis, cycling, triathlon and cross country skiing. Do you learn something new from each sport?
Of course. I learn that there are no limits to the human spirit. That there are no barriers to achieving our dreams and that it’s never too late to try. Learning and training in each sport has taught me that you can always choose a new path, that everything we do comes with challenges but with discipline you can overcome them.
Where does your love for sport come from?
I’ve got no idea! Perhaps from a need to explore without limits, looking for that place of peace which I find when I’m training. Looking for that unconditional friend who is always there with a new lesson and a new challenge. And that friend is pain. In the love you feel when you come up against yourself, when there are no rivals other than will and effort. When it’s you against the world.
I don’t know who Germán would be without sport. If someone asked me to describe Germán without using the words skiing, swimming, running, cycling, dreaming… I couldn’t imagine it.
What advice would you give to someone who thinks it is “too late” or “too hard”?
I would say you haven’t tried yet and that if you just make a start you’ll realize that it’s never too late or too hard. It’s the struggle that makes us strong. It’s about going out to face the challenge, which gives us confidence that it can be achieved. If you sit there thinking about it and weighing up your options you’ll realize that everything is hard and it’s too late for everything. It’s better to run for the train and not make it than to sit there thinking you’ll never make it. Because only people who run know that with a little bit more effort they will surely make the next one.