"Since I entered the hospital I wonder: do I do the right thing?"
He gets up at 6.45 to work at the Niño Jesús Hospital, where he deals with children who have even attempted suicide. And in the afternoon he is able to train 6 × 300 between 47 ″ and 45 ″ on the indoor track. It's the life of Miriam Costa, a 22-year-old athlete one step away from professionalism.
Your Plan B is to one day go to Africa: volunteer. Before, Miriam Costa wants to devote herself as an elite athlete. And the moment is now that he is 22 years old, that he has already done 4'17 ”in 1,500 and that he has been sixth in the last National. But since we cannot live without complicating our lives, here she is to prove it. Now, in the year in which he finished his university degree, he has started to work in psychiatry at the Niño Jesús hospital, eats a tupper that heats in the microwave, makes a Master that has cost him € 8,000 and gives private lessons in English. And most of the afternoons when he arrives at the track he tries to convince himself that he can't take it anymore. But the reality is that even so Miriam is doing magnificent training this winter. "Only calmly will I achieve what I am looking for," he says.
Very tired, not to vary. I wake up at 6.45 in the morning since December when I started at the Niño Jesus hospital, in psychiatry, where I treat eating disorders in children, in adolescents up to 18 years. And, somehow, that puts you on the razor's edge, it doesn't allow you to emotionally neglect a moment.
And what do you find?
I have learned to measure words, to use silences because you encounter cases of schizophrenia, bipolarity, suicide attempts in children. Without going any further, yesterday with a girl who has a disease for which she does not want to eat. To give it a yogurt I was an hour and a half in which he spit on me or in which he pulled my hair. But it was worth it. In the end, I got him to take it.
And that is his job.
A part of my job, yes.
And how do you live with that?
You have to enjoy it: I enjoy it. Look, the first time I arrived at the hospital I saw a boy hitting his head against the wall. He was 9 years old and that makes you so sad, because you know that when he turns 18 he will have to leave the hospital and he will continue with that disorder and ask yourself, 'What will become of him?' That is why as much as possible we must help him , accompany him, train him to face what his life is going to be.
What time do you go to work?
At 8.30 and I leave at 15.00.
So from Monday to Friday.
So the seven hours that lasts every day, but in the hospital this is like this: you have to get 100/100 emotionally involved. And the only way to get involved is to surrender as you are.
And then he forgets the athlete he is?
Until three in the afternoon, yes. So it is true that I go out and the downturn comes to me and I try to convince myself that ‘I can't do more’ and I think ‘I can't do more’ But it is not true because I can and I am going to study the Master, which I am doing, to the library and at half past five I go to the track to train.
And I train, yes.
And this is not a dead end for an elite athlete?
I hope not, but it is true that since I entered the hospital every day I ask myself: ‘Will I be doing the right thing? Above all, because I had promised my coach that when I finished the race I was going to give myself a full-time opportunity in athletics and yet I am not doing it. And it creates pressure on me and I resolve it by telling myself, ‘in March you end up in the hospital’ and you can train, but…
The hardest thing in life, apparently, is fighting oneself.
In that fight with myself I lose out.
And how is it possible in a person who has studied psychology?
In the end, when you study psychology you are prepared to help the other, not to help yourself. That is the difference and do you know what my way of coping with it is? I try to take the least possible things to bed, ask me the least possible questions at night. It is my way of helping myself.
And that is enough?
It goes in my personality, it goes in my person. I was always like that. I've always demanded a lot, maybe too much. I have struggled since I know myself to perform to the fullest, to seek perfection. A 9 has never been enough for me. Sometimes, not even 10, because I wanted the honors.
And then how do you carry the disappointments that athletics hits you?
Very bad. But now I have a sports psychologist who has taught me to learn from defeats. I have learned that to be better we need to fail. In success you forget that tomorrow you can fail and in life there are failures.
Have you found success as an athlete?
I think so. Last summer I was not international, but I did the minimum and enjoyed how I had never enjoyed competing and I realized something I did not know. That is success for me.
Can you enjoy it on the last 400, on the last lap?
Yeah right if. I would even tell you what I like most about racing, what I enjoy most. From psychology I learned to use distraction when we are very tired and I represent all that in the last lap of the races. Then I even sing. I can hum Leiva and it takes pressure off, it helps me forget the result. Even in the call chamber: everything that can evade pressure is already a success.
Antonio Serrano, your coach, said you are the other day: "we are working to be a good athlete."
Yes I agree.
Not already a good athlete?
I am a potential athlete, which is different. If I can be professional, I have to prove it. I still have to learn and who knows if I should leave work ... Of course, this year I have discovered that it has nothing to do with studying with work. In the end, dealing with people requires maximum involvement. Any mistake you can commit will affect a person who is not you and you cannot afford it. You work with psychiatric patients. You move to the razor's edge.
Now he will realize what his parents have sacrificed to bring a salary home.
Yes, indeed. My mother works in a bank and sometimes she arrives very tired, and my father in a Mutual of Work Injuries and is one of those who always conceals fatigue. He doesn't want to pay with anyone but him. That is why my father is an example in which I look and in which I will always look: he may already be tired that if one day he said, ‘today I accompany you to train’, he will accompany me, sure.
Does your father also train?
He started doing it when I got injured thinking about the day I came back. He was a professional footballer. He played in Madrid where he belonged to the Quinta del Vultre generation and, if it had not been for the injuries, he could have gone further ... Then, he played in the Ray and Getafe and now has an autoimmune disease, similar to the Hepatitis, which is hard and that is becoming very, very long.
So now he doesn't train.
He tells me to run for both of them and, for me, it's one more incentive: I don't want to fail him.
Have you wondered how far you can go?
Now is hard. Every day, when I leave work, I face a moral dilemma: do I do the right thing? But even arriving so tired in the afternoon it turns out that I am doing good training. The other day I made 6 × 300 between 45 and 47 seconds with 2’30 ”recovery without nail slippers on the indoor track which gives it more value.
And from the month of March when I stop working?
In April I go safely to Portugal to a concentration organized by the Federation. If nothing happens, I will be there and the children, who give private lessons in English, have already told them that we will do them on Skype. Their parents tell me that it is not necessary, but I feel a responsibility towards them.
Are you a sick person at work?
People increasingly like to work less.
I really enjoy everything I do. That's why I forget the athlete when I'm in the hospital. From there I do not know what will happen in time, but I hope to continue talking the same within 20 and even 50 years. I think then I will end up somewhere lost in Africa. Last summer, after the championship of absolute Spain, I was already a month of volunteer in Sri Lanka.
They are his Memories of Africa.
And how was it?
He slept practically on the ground and only ate rice, because there is nothing else there. And I only drank tea and ended up working twelve hours a day for three different NGOs. And then I realized that there is my Plan B for tomorrow, in Africa.
Then, he returned to Madrid and became an athlete again.
Well, there I also trained. I had to start the season and went out to train at night. I armed myself with courage because there the woman is not yet treated the same as here and it is true that I had episodes of fear, I could tell her that crocodiles came out while I was running in the middle of the road. My coach wrote to me on Whattsap and said: "If you can't run, you wait for October when you come back." But I did not conceive standing.
Does athletics reconcile you with yourself?
Yes I think so. I want to be a professional athlete, I have already told you. But I also don't want to be a burden to my parents and try to pay me everything I do, and athletics, as with training, is expensive. It's the sports doctor, it's the physio, it's the psychologist, it's the trips, it's the concentrations ... The expenses for now exceed the income. But I do not work to save but to survive and grow as an athlete as Marta Pérez has taught me every time she sees me loosen or cry like the other day.
And tomorrow at 6.45 standing, again.
Yes, if the series I do today let me sleep, yes. I find it hard to sleep. I don't know how well I sleep and that is a problem for an athlete. But I am willing to solve my problems little by little. I have tattooed lasai which means calm in Basque. It was taught to me by Xabier Leibar, the doctor who treats me that convinced me that the only way to grow as an athlete is to go slowly.