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Runner With Cerebral Palsy Finishes The Barcelona Marathon

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Running a marathon is always an impressive feat

After all, covering 26.2 miles on foot takes a lot of physical and mental strength. 

As such, marathon finishers are an elite subset, making up about 1 percent of the population around the world.

One of the newest marathon finishers who can count himself among that intrepid minority is Alex Roca, a 32-year-old from Catalonia, Spain.

Roca isn’t just admirable in the way that any runner who crosses the finish line of a marathon is; rather, this young man‘s marathon performance is notably more impressive. 

Indeed, Alex Roca is the first person with a 76 percent disability to ever complete a marathon.

Roca triumphantly crossed the finish line of the 2023 Barcelona Marathon in a time of 5:50:51, finishing the full 26.2-mile distance despite his physical limitations.

Roca, who is a Nike-sponsored runner, has cerebral palsy, which was caused by a case of cerebral herpes that he contracted at six months old.

His illness was so severe that reportedly, doctors did not think he would survive.

As a result of cerebral herpes, Roca developed cerebral palsy, a movement disorder that can manifest in different ways, ranging not only in severity from relatively mild to severe but also in subtype and symptom presentation.

For Roca, cerebral palsy has manifested in reduced mobility on the left side of his body. He also communicates through sign language rather than the spoken word.

Despite these challenges, Roca has persevered and lived life to the fullest.

Translating Spanish to English from his personal website, Roca notes: “In my life, I have had many barriers and I have jumped them as best I could and with a lot of effort. Currently, I have studies, work, car, partner and a ‘normal’ life.”

Roca has also competed in numerous other endurance events, including triathlons and other endurance road races. 

However, he reports that running a marathon has been a lifelong dream and one that he has been training for several years.

In fact, en route to becoming a marathon finisher at the 2023 Zurich Marathon of Barcelona, athlete Alex Roca completed seven half marathons.

Roca’s record-setting marathon run is not his first time going down in the record books for accomplishing an endurance event as an athlete with cerebral palsy.

In 2019, Roca became the first athlete with cerebral palsy to finish the six-day multi-stage mountain bike race known as the Garmin Titan Desert race. 

This challenging event takes cyclists through the Moroccan desert.

Roca’s Marathon performance is not only inspiring to other runners with physical disabilities but able-bodied runners as well. 

His fortitude and determination are evidence of the power of the relentless human spirit, and demonstrate the incredible feats that can be accomplished when we set our hearts and minds on a goal and decide that it is possible to overcome whatever obstacles may seem to stand in the way.

As Roca shares, “For me, sport is very important in my day to day, because I see it as a lifestyle to improve myself. I believe that no one can put limits on you, but that the limits are set by yourself. Being each owner of their destiny and their possibilities.”

To learn more about the athletic accomplishments and ongoing adventures of Alex Roca, you can check out his personal website or follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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