– Paratriathlete and Motivational Speaker –
“Failure is not to try again”
Ruben Grande was born in Mexico City, he was the youngest of three brothers and he was always a very active child, he remembers his legs were always in constant motion, which led him to become a very good athlete, practicing athletics and basketball during his childhood and adolescence.
Bearing the surname “Grande” (which in spanish means Great) while growing up wasn’t easy, especially during his adolescence since on top of that, his second surname is “Amador” (which in spanish means Lover), his classmates used to burst into laughter when the teacher called out the roll in class. This situation forced him to learn to defend himself because of the “bullying” he was victim of despite his academic success during that time.
Years after giving up on his dream to become a Pilot, Ruben decided to return to the city of Cancun. It was a time of excessive drinking and drug use, after realizing that he had a serious addiction, he decided to voluntarily enter a rehab clinic in 1992, where he managed to recover and has been clean of substances up to the present day. Three years later, fate had prepared one of the toughest tests that he would ever face in his life.
It was in the year of 1995 when Ruben and his friends concluded their second day of work during a trip to the city of Los Cabos in Mexico, they decided to take a tour of the dunes while riding four-wheel motorcycles, and they chose the highest dune before calling the day off. Always wanting to be number one, Ruben hit the gas in one the dunes to beat his friends, he struck a mound of earth due to the high speed, causing the mtorcycle to get stuck into de ground and he was thrown into the air, and he pulled a muscle in the right leg as a result of this, which caused the displacement of his knee and excruciating pain.
He was rushed to a small clinic that was run by nuns since back then, the City of Los Cabos did not have the infrastructure that it has now. While he was drowning in pain, Ruben´s injured leg was put back in place. He was put into a walking cast from waist to foot.
Ruben had to undergo surgery several times; he suffered from blood loss, physical exhaustion, and emotional depression. The days went by full of tests and doctors, but his leg did not improve despite the fact that they carried out all the necessary procedures. Ruben´s bodily functions were failing, and everything went downhill. After trying everything that could be done by the hands of medicine, the doctor decided have a serious talk with Ruben, saying: “You have Caseous Necrosis, which is commonly known as Gangrene, and your right leg has to be amputated above the knee…”. Ruben accepted his fate and bravely signed the authorization for the amputation of his right leg.
His life was now very different. Through several physiotherapy sessions, the unconditional love of his family and friends; and a prosthesis that was placed later on, he began to fend for himself. Swimming became a key component of his daily life as part of his recovery, he found in this activity additional motivation in his life. Thanks to his perseverance, and full of desire to achieve his first major challenge after his accident, Ruben decided to participate in an open water event that consisted in swimming 10 kilometers, he achieved a personal record of 3:57, this was the trigger that caused him to continue conquering challenges that would change his life forever…
Seven years later and with a more suitable prosthesis for running, Ruben completed a sprint triathlon in the city of Veracruz in Mexico. It was then when he realized that his mind would never see a place for the impossible for the rest of his life. Over time, Ruben continued to participate in several triathlons until he got a qualification for the triathlon World Championships that was held in New Zealand in 2003, he got the second place, and he also competed in Hawaii, he continued participating in international competitions in Switzerland, Germany, Canada and Australia.
Although his expertise was based in Olympic distance triathlons, Ruben decided to go beyond the unthinkable, he set for himself a new challenge which was to compete in long distances, he managed to finish the Ironman70.3© in the city of Cancun in Mexico in 2006, which is also known as “Half Ironman”. After a failed attempt in 2009, Ruben decided to fulfill his biggest dream: to become an Ironman triathlete, goal that was accomplished on the island of Cozumel in 2011 when he swam 3.8 kilometers, cycled 180 kilometers, and ran 42 kilometers of marathon, for the very first time in his life!.
In 2013, with two completed Ironmans over his shoulders, Ruben got a place to participate in the Ironman World Championship, in the city of Kona in Hawaii, he had the privilege of receiving the finalist medal at the finish line from the hands of the three times world champion, Mirinda Carfrae.
After 14 years dedicated to a life of optimism, drive and perseverance, Ruben has accomplished to finish the Ironman 4 times, the Ironman70.3© 11 times, and has participated in eight World Championships triathlons, as well as 215 kilometers of cycling in Quintana Roo and 2 “Gran Fondo de Ciclismo” (Cycle challenges) of 100 miles, among many other competitions and sports activities. He has various sports merit awards, and today he is an inspiration and example for the world of triathlon.
He currently offers motivational talks where he conveys his life story as well as the many challenges that he has overcome in order to succeed, but above all, he shares his example of perseverance and gives a message of optimism, saying that you need to try more than once the things that are truly worthwhile, even walking, as it was his case. He also belongs to the organization “Challenged Athletes Foundation” and is honored to play a role in this movement. “If children can not afford to run a leg, a grant from the foundation will help you get it. It’s great to see what these kids do in the future. They will change the world in one way or another. Last year we gave 2 million in scholarships to 3,000 athletes with disabilities worldwide” You can find more information on their website at: www.challengedathletes.org.
Ruben has just published his first book called “Ni Tan Mala Pata” which in English means “Not Such a Bad Leg” where he covers details of the accident, as well as moments of his childhood and youth, showing the humble and persevering side of this great triathlete and magnificent human being. To learn more about Ruben Grande and his sports activities, visit the following link: www.rubengrande.com. We are confident we will continue to watch him grow, as he lives up to his surname…Grande (Great)!
Ruben in his own words
How does it feel to be an inspiration to others? Did you ever expect to become an inspiration?
I am very grateful for everything I have received out of triathlons; in each competition I receive many expressions of support. There are many stories that I constantly remember, people are always telling me that seeing me compete has now inspired them to start exercising and having a healthy lifestyle, teammates are always inspired when they see me competing without a leg. “I am privileged to have the trust of people who I train and I want to inspire and convey the beauty and the many benefits it gives us the sport. I never expected to become an inspiration, but this is great responsibility that I greatly enjoy by doing things with discipline, love, and passion.
Why are Triathlons so inspiring? What makes this sport so special around the world?
Those who practice this sport know how much we love it, three disciplines takes your capacity to the limit. I’ve always said that triathlon is a lifestyle, changing nutrition habits, schedules, and full-time commitment. A discipline that is reflected in all aspects of life, you have to be dedicated, consistent and persistent as well as having a mental preparation to achieve the challenge of putting your ability to the limit; It is a wonderful madness.
When did you start participating in triathlons? Where was your first competition?
In 1992 in Cancun, I was invited to do a relay race, it was before losing the leg. From that day I was hooked with the sport (I used to be a runner), but facing the challenge of the three disciplines, become more defiant.
What motivates you in life?
The desire to continue as a better person, breaking schemes and meeting goals. I like to demonstrate that disability is carried inside the mind, and that a positive attitude can make a difference. It is always possible to make the best out of the adversity by doing things with passion. I still have dreams to fulfill that motivates me to continue working and living this adventure named triathlon.
What would you say to other people with similar ambitions?
Triathlon is a sport that grabs you, you too are an inspiration to others, you are also an example to them, “If I can, you can.” The limits are in the mind, working consistently and focused, you can achieve all goals.
Who inspires you? Why?
The camaraderie. When I see all the effort that we put on, is pure adrenaline. Inspiration is when people choose to go for his first time, the first to get in a a pool to learn to swim, and hundreds of new faces who completed their first triathlon. There are more and more passionate people who inspire us to practice this sport.
How did you deal with obstacles in your life?
With optimism and willingness. I never thought it was a quality to be stubborn. Today, in my stage of maturity, I feel lucky who I am which has helped me to overcome some obstacles in my life. I live daily with intensity and gratitude, always seeing the bright side of things.Is what we have, not what we need. They asked me if I miss my leg, I say no because my prosthesis is not building up lactic acid, doesn’t get tired, and I don’t get the cramps. When I had the accident, I lost my leg but not my life. I’m alive and I want to take advantage of every moment I have.
What do you like most about Triathlons?
I always say that triathlon is what I most enjoy doing. I enjoy everything, event planning, training and camaraderie, and even training by myself. The day of each race, I like to share with many colleagues that we feel supportive by sharing this passion. The development of competition and each of the stages is something I enjoy the most. What I always keep in my heart, it is the applauses, encouraging words, hugs, and tokens of affection from many people without knowing me, gives me enthusiasm and energy.
Mention major accomplishments in your life other than triathlons
I have dedicated 30 years to the restaurant business, and that gives me great satisfaction. I am currently a motivational speaker, I share my life experiences giving motivational talks.
Do you support or represent any Non-Profit Organizations?
Yes. I have the honor to be part of the great organization named “Challenged Athletes Foundation”, a non-profit organization. For more information, visit: www.challengedathletes.org