21 feb German Silva interview District Vision NY: The unifying spirit of running
Jasiel: Germán, have you always run, were you born running, how did running come to you?
Germán: I was born to run, I’m convinced of it. I love it! I’ve done it since I discovered it. Running was an activity that not only made me feel well physically, but also mentally and spiritually. I’ve always put running together with hanging out with friends, with nature, with having a good time, and that feeds me. I never go out running not wanting to, I always enjoy it. Nowadays, I don’t think that I’ll go out to train, I just run. I have adopted a different attitude to when I was preparing to compete; today I put my clothes on, I put on a hydration pack, I take an energy bar and some money in the bag, and I start running until my batteries run out. When I decide that the journey is over, I go somewhere to eat and I don’t think about how I’ll return, whether to take the train, a taxi, or to ask someone to come pick me up.
Jasiel: You have years of experience through marathon running and you are now a coach, a teacher – do you think you have the best method for marathon running so a new runner can avoid all the usual beginner mistakes or is marathoning an art that is learned by continual practice?
Germán: My experience can help guide and advice new runners, but I’m convinced that every runner has to develop by herself/himself, learning from their own mistakes. Some time ago, someone asked me how to control her rhythm during a marathon. My answer was “just do it, train repetitions, long distances; but only when you find yourself running faster than you should, you’ll find the proper way and rhythm”. If during repetition training you are too intense at the beginning and end up tired, you’ll understand that the best way is to go from less to more. You can explain it many times… people won’t understand it until they feel it. To fail is a natural process that you must live as a runner, only then you’ll become a better marathoner. Learning happens in every aspect: training, rest, and nourishment.
Jasiel: Do you think there is a new approach to running that uses the whole body and explores the mind more than in the old days when just pure running was the focus of marathon training?
Germán: No, that has always been implicit; the mind plays the most important role. In order to educate it, you must have the capacity to learn. It’s fine if you make a mistake, when you are open-minded you learn much better from your mistakes. The first time I ran the Rotterdam Marathon I didn’t finish it, I gave up at kilometer 40. The second time I ran it I was afraid. The runner moves between fear and desire; even if you know you trained well, you never know what can happen the day of the race. All these are elements that dwell in the mind and that can help you or stop you. You can run incredibly one day just because you’re motivated. There are many elements that develop your attributes as a runner, but the mind is what determines everything, either to endure a session of 15x1000m or to cross the finish line of a marathon.
Jasiel: Do you see changes in methods of the actual training, or are the workouts the same as in the 90’s, and what will the workouts look like in 2030?
Germán: There have definitely been changes. Both for high-performance and recreational runners. More work is being done today on physical strength to gain resistance and speed; but the main change lies in the use of technology. Both in footwear and clothing. But above all in the use of gadgets that allow us to measure pulse and rhythm. We used to use only a stopwatch and our feeling guided us in knowing our pace; today technology allows us to measure the rhythm, pulsations, stride, lactate levels; you can even share your route on social networks. But people shouldn’t lose the basis, controlling your rhythm by your feelings to the point of perfectly knowing your body.
How will running look like in 2030? People are training less and running better. It is always necessary to have a training plan and to be properly prepared, because it’s not about running a single marathon, but about extending life as a runner, and this implies attacking runners’ number one enemy: injuries. One must prevent them instead of healing them.
Jasiel: In your opinion, is marathon running a sport that unifies people more so than other sports?
Germán: Yes, training for a marathon generates community and lots of empathy. You feel what the other feels. Running with someone allows you to achieve more things than doing it by yourself, you have someone else’s support, and you can even compete against others. This makes friendships stronger. I’ve seen best friends who have been great opponents on the track.
Jasiel: What makes marathon day special to a city?
Germán: Every big city has its own marathon. Cities with a huge sports culture and where citizens somehow participate, either supporting or organizing, it is a way of transmitting to the world the quality of the city, in terms of culture, coexistence, and respect.
Jasiel: What lessons does running give us that can help build a better community? Have you seen change in communities where you lead your training groups?
Germán: Running forms communities that make people more conscious about social problems. When someone has a problem there’s always someone from the group willing to help. The phenomenon of running has been crucial when it comes to conserving certain values in a society; for example, it is unlikely that you’d see a runner littering the streets. In fact, we become more conscious about our participation in fundraising events.
Jasiel: What has running taught you as a person, do you feel that pushing boundaries in your running has helped you develop as a person outside your running life? If so in which ways?
Germán: I started running barefoot but with very clear ideals. Running helped me to reinforce the principles that my father passed on me: respect, loyalty and honesty. I’m conscious of where I come from and where I want to go. I don’t care about material things, I only enjoy my family. Running has given me everything: friends, health and an emotional equilibrium.
Jasiel: NYC is a diverse city that comes together on marathon day and unites. You are such an ambassador for the city’s running community and when the King of Spain gave the marathon the award a couple of years ago I know the NYRR brought you to represent the event for them; what ways do you think NYC can encourage the global trend of running by bringing more people together for the right reason of social change for the good?
Germán: It’s a very important topic, and I don’t mention it because I’m a member of the board; the New York Marathon is a model to follow. They have invested wisely both on human efforts and in the financial side of it, with some good marketing. Revenue is used to generate programs that support the community and the city; still, the marathon is only one among many actions done to benefit New Yorkers, there are programs that support children, women and also the runners to improve the level of the competition. The marathon’s reputation has generated good PR to create social commitment and to lead projects linked to the marathon and to NYRR. They have also focused on the Hispanic market, because of the development that running has had in these countries.