2013 - Alex Chavez Moving Forward Interview
Can you tell me a little about your childhood background? My understanding is you didn’t come from the healthiest of childhoods. Is that a fair assessment?
Yes, I come from a family that was not really healthy. My mom has diabetes and my brother as well (adult onset). We didn’t practice sports and my parents didn’t encourage me to get into a sport as a child. I never realized I was overweight at the time and that I was supposed to exercise until a doctor told my parents I should after I gained a lot of weight in a year. So, it wasn’t until Coach AC Jaime came to the school that I joined.
How old were you then? What grade were you in?
I was in fifth grade and 10 years old.
Do you remember how much you weighed or how tall you were?
I don’t really remember.
You said you brother had diabetes. How old was he when he got diagnosed?
How’s your dad’s health?
He doesn’t have diabetes, but he is kinda sick from his heart so he has to take care for what he eats.
So you were in 5th grade. Coach Jaime comes to school and introduces the sport of race walking. Had you ever heard of it before?
No, I actually didn’t know the sport existed until he came to school.
Did you start race walking as part of his club?
I started by going every Sunday and he would eventually asked me to join.
Would you walk at all in between or just on Sundays?
On Sundays. I think I just walked once a week for two weeks and then I started going as much as I could.
So a month or two into race walking, how much were you walking?
4 days per week.
I assume not very far since you were a 10 yo kid.
Actually, I didn’t race walking at the beginning because I couldn’t get the technique, so coach had me hike for 45 minutes on the track.
Were you losing weight once you started walking?
I really didn’t notice for two years. I was gradually losing weight over the days and months. I thought I was still the same chubby kids until people started saying I looked skinnier.
Yes, if people met you today they never would think you were ever overweight. They would think of you as a rather thin elite athlete.
Very cool, so when would you say you started competing with race walking?
I did small races that year, because they had a 5K at the clinic in Texas and I walked a 37:17.
And this is when you were 10?
That’s pretty good. So I imagine your doctor noticed a difference at some point?
Yes, she was very happy with that.
Did you tell her it was race walking? If you don’t mind me saying how did she react to the chubby kid coming in and saying that he is a race walker now?
I didn’t really tell her or two or three years. I was still shy. A lot of people would mock my sport so I would be quiet about it and I didn’t really start saying I was a race walker for two or three years. She found and was really happy and always ask how my races are going.
So you eluded to other kids made fun of you race walking. What would you say to other kids who probably will have the same experience?
I would say to not fight back because it just provokes them. Just stay strong and know that in the future you will be in a better place and be reaching your goals.
I take it you do not regret learning to race walk and changing your life around?
No, I think it’s the best thing that has happened to me.
Has your walking changed the life style of either of your parents or your brother?
Not really. Actually it has. A year or two years ago my mom started walking a mile or two every day and her diabetes is better with her blood sugar levels improving.
How old are you now?
So at what point did you realize you had talent and could compete at a national and international level?
I started realizing it on my sophomore year in high school when I PR’d by 30 seconds in the mile. I won Nike indoor nationals in 6:40 and I started believing in myself then that I can actually be focused.
So it’s fair to say that walking has not only improved your physical life but your confidence and self-esteem. I assume you can apply that to school and relationships and everything else.
Yes, especially school. Once I started racing and understood that I was competitive and didn’t like losing I took that mentality to my class. I didn’t want to be at the bottom of the class, but in the top 10% and I pushed myself to do better.
So you won the High School Indoor Nationals and then hooked up with Coach Tim Seaman. Last year was your last year at junior nationals. How did you do?
I actually did bad at Jr. Nationals. I did 49 minutes in the 10K. I hadn’t walked that slow in 3 years and finished 4th.
You competed at the World Cup previously, how did that go?
It went well. Competing in the heat most people weren’t close to the personal records. I was like 10 seconds off my PR in Russia and I was really really happy. I raced a smart race and finished in 46:25.
So your next step is moving up to the 20K and you’ve done a couple right?
No, I’ve done a 25K.
How did that go?
Do you know what your split was at 20K?
No, all I know is that I broke my 5K PR in the last 5K of the 25K.
What was that?
I walked 22:10 for the last 5K.
So you must be looking forward to racing a real 20K?
So what’s your next race? Pan Am Trials?
For the 20K yes, in March.
What are you hoping to do time wise?
I hope to break 1:30, but if not, just be close to it.
A sub 1:30 would be quite a first 20K.
That’s my goal for June, but I am believing in myself that I hope to do it before.
That would be phenomenal. Are you thinking of A standard by 2016?
I would like to say yes, but I am really far right now. Hopefully, I keep improving, so I can answer that question as yes in two years or so.
That’s fair. So I assume the two biggest people that have influenced your walking are Tim Seaman and Coach Jaime.
What’s the college you are at?
Missouri Baptist University
And you are there on a walking scholarship?
So how is that working having another coach at college?
It’s really good. I learned a lot about life from Coach AC Jaime. He is a great man and he taught me how to be a leader and I am applying that in college. Coach Tish (Hanna) is doing a great job. She is open and if she has a question she will ask me or Coach Seaman because of his experience.
A lot of coaches don’t work well together, but it sounds like you are in a really good supportive situation.
Anything you would want to say to kids that are out there, overweight and afraid to try it?
When I was little there were very, very few people who believed in me due to my overweight situation. There were many times I wanted to quit. But the few people who believed in me was more than enough to keep me from quitting. So I hanged in there. No matter how bad the situation is, if you love something and you have a goal, whether is academically or athletically, run to towards that dream, never give up and never look back. I haven't reached my goal yet but I’m still chasing it and I'm not giving up.