alex roca split image

An athlete with cerebral palsy who was told he’d live in a vegetative state is feeling on top of the world after making history at the Barcelona Marathon.

Àlex Roca Campillo (Spain) completed the race in 5 hr 50 min 51 sec, earning himself the Guinness World Records title of fastest marathon (CIH) (male).

CIH refers to the disability category that Àlex falls under.

Àlex’s record title has brought him a lot of attention in his homeland, with him already appearing on Spanish TV chat show El Hormiguero and on the cover of Runner’s World Spain magazine.

alex roca holds his arms up in celebration

He’s on a mission to break down barriers and challenge stigmas by showing the world exactly what he’s capable of.

And we couldn’t be prouder to have him as part of the Guinness World Records family.

The 32-year-old has cerebral palsy, which was caused by a diagnosis with herpetic viral encephalitis (cerebral herpes) when he was just six months old.

alex roca far right running the barcelona marathon

He explained how doctors said his only two options were to die or live in a vegetative state.

Defying the odds, he survived, although he was left with paralysis in 76% of his body, unable to speak and with reduced mobility on his left side. 

Àlex, who communicates through sign language, found a love for sports at a young age.

alex roca in yellow at the barcelona marathon

He told us: “I started to play football when I was small, in school, but I stopped because I had very little stability when walking and running, so I stopped it. 

“Then I tried tennis and skiing, and then for 15 years and up to now I am playing in a team of people with cerebral palsy, the only thing I don’t practise as much now as from 2014 I started racing. In 2014 I did the El Corte Ingles race, my first 10 km (6.2 mi), and since then I haven’t stopped.”

alex roca celebrates completing the barcelona marathon

In the lead up to the Barcelona Marathon earlier this year, Àlex completed a number of half marathons and other endurance events.

He trained for a whole year in the lead up to the marathon, and he struggles to describe the emotions he felt when he crossed the finish line.

“I felt so proud of my team, of my life, and overall, my desire to show the world that having a body with limitations or a disability isn’t something that impedes us from doing great things. But with the right attitude, willpower, and motivation you can achieve great things.”

alex roca hugs a fellow runner

And when we asked Àlex if he has a motto that he lives by, he added: “Yes, ‘You set your own limits’, which is my motto in life because I think no one can tell you that you are not capable of doing something, they must let you try. 

“And for this reason, day by day I fight to achieve my dreams. And the figures of my parents have been very important, because they never limited me but always let me attempt things.”

Àlex was not only the first person with a 76% disability to complete the Barcelona Marathon, but also the Titan Desert Race in 2019.

alex roca on a runners shoulders at the finish line

When looking to the future, Àlex has a heart-warming goal in mind: “To be happy always.”

On receiving his Guinness World Records title, he said: “For me to gain this record is indescribable, I hope it’s not the last one. But it’s indescribable because I want to dedicate it to anyone who thinks they can’t do something or are scared, or who face small challenges and feel they can’t go on or open any more doors or keep fighting because they are scared. 

“I dedicate it to them so that they will keep on fighting, keep on challenging themselves and their own bodies, but above all so that they will continue to trust in themselves, because all of us, if we have a positive attitude can achieve great things. And sometimes if we can’t achieve it, it’s simply because we have to try again, find a different strategy and wherever we end up, we can always be happy.”

alex roca with his certificate

Read this story in Spanish.

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