I met Emilio Larrazabal by chance almost three years ago when we both showed up to volunteer for Gobble, Gobble, Give in Silverlake on Thanksgiving. One of the ways you can volunteer is by driving a car to deliver all the Thanksgiving meals donated by the community. I not only prepared about ten pounds of mac and cheese, but I also volunteered to drive and deliver the plates to people on the streets all around Los Angeles. While I waited in a long line of cars waiting to be loaded with plates and clothing a volunteer ran up and asked if I would like to take other volunteers with me. I said, “Yes.” That was the moment I first met Emilio. Emilio and two other volunteers jumped into my car.
You could tell Emilio was a very compassionate person by the way he wanted to make sure he didn’t miss a chance to get a meal to someone on the streets. No matter how hard they were to get to. He even went way off the grid, under overpasses and into thick bushes, to deliver meals to people. Some were beyond fences and couldn’t be seen.
I stayed in touch with Emilio after that event and he even joined me in delivering sandwiches to Skid Row one time when I made a bunch to hand out. That is when we really had a chance to talk more personally and I learned about how gifted this young man is.
Emilio is now 22 years old and lives in North Hollywood. I learned on our last outing that his favorite pastime is running ultra-marathons. Before our conversation about these races, I knew very little about them. Emilio told me, “An Ultra-Marathon (commonly referred to simply as an Ultra) is any running race with a distance longer than the standard marathon of 26.2 miles.”
I was fascinated by what I was heard. He went on to say, “Since I picked up the sport a little over two years ago, I have ran 14 different ultras that have been 100 miles or longer. The longest run I’ve done was 393 miles in seven days at the Goldsteig Ultra race thru the Bavarian forest in Germany where I finished ninth in the world. I won first place at the 2014 Silverton challenge in Colorado where I ran 300 miles with 75,000ft of elevation gain in just over five days. I am also the youngest athlete to complete a 292-mile double crossing of the infamous Badwater Ultramarathon thru Death Valley, CA. Highly regarded as the toughest foot race on the planet, less people have finished Badwater than have climbed Mount Everest. I am one of only thirty people to ever do a double crossing. I thought to myself, this is amazing. This young man, half my age, inspired me to want to achieve more in life.
Emilio said, “So far if there’s anything that I’ve learned from doing these races it would be, that the only thing we truly can control in this world is our own mind. Keep your focus on controlling your own thoughts and you will eventually get to the finish line.” Great wisdom from such a young man.
That is probably why he loves the quote from the legendary coach, Phil Jackson, which states, “Keep your eyes on the spirit, not the scoreboard.” Emilio said, “I love this quote because we all want and need to feel a sense of security in our lives, but most of us look for it in things that we have no control over. We fret and worry about winning a championship more than actually having the spirit or mindset of a champion. You can’t always win, but you can always be a champion. Ultra marathon running is a humbling sport and constantly finds new ways to remind me that I have less control over conditions than I’d like. All the best athletes I’ve seen though, keep their heads cool under seemingly impossible challenges. They do this by simply not worrying about things they can’t control and focusing solely on what is in their power.”
Emilio told the following story, which summed up the amazing spirit this young man is possessed with. He said, “Two weeks ago at the Across the Years 6-day race in Arizona (where runners see who can run the most miles in six days circling a 1mile loop) I had knee injury on day two around mile 106 that kept me from bending my right knee and made it nearly impossible for me to do anything besides limp. I had the hopes of running 450miles at this race, but the pain in my knee kept flaring up and was putting a heavy anchor in my race. After struggling to find a solution, I took a dose of my own advice and slowly, painfully, and with a smile limped my way to 212 miles. My knee injury may have hindered my goals for that particular race, but it was my choice not to let it ruin my attitude.”
He closed the interview by offering the following thoughts, “If you want to know what your character is, answer these questions: At what intensity do you fight? How passionately do you love? With how much integrity do you treat the people around you? At what point are you willing to settle for a life that’s less than what you deserve? These questions reveal a person’s true character, but they can’t be answered with words. They can only be answered with action. The only reason I can run for hundreds of miles at a time is not because of the strength of my legs, but the strength of my spirit! Invest in your character and hold on to it when things get rough and you will have a peace of mind that can never be lost! That’s how you walk through hell with a smile. heck, you might even find yourself enjoying life for once!:”
If you could cure one disease in the world what it be? Why?
Hmmm, I’d say type 1 diabetes. Obviously curing almost any disease would be like a huge deal, but my youngest brother is a Type 1 diabetic so this one has a special place in our family .
What advice would you give the teenage you?
Try not to be so pessimistic and resentful about life. Learn to enjoy small things and eventually things do get easier.
One person living or dead you would love to hang out with for a day? What would you do?
I’ve always wanted to smoke a joint with ninja from Die Antwoord. I don’t smoke, but I would if I got to hang with him for a day.
What is one meal or food you could eat every day and not get tired of?
Steak and mashed potatoes. This is my victory food so whenever I do something good I’ll reward myself with it haha!
What is your favorite novel and what does it say about your mind?
When I was 12, I read Moby Dick just because my dad told me it was an extremely difficult book to read and very few people actually read it. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was my favorite novel although I did enjoy it, but it says a lot about my personality at a young age to strive for difficult challenges. Now my favorite book is Post Office by Chuck Bukowski.
Who is your favorite artist and what does their work say about the way you think?
Bob marley. “Cuz every little thing is gonna be alright.”
If you were president and could enact any law out right, what would it be?
Campaign finance reform. Get the money and career politicians out of politics.
Do you think World Peace is possible? What one thing do you think might be the first step in the direction of it?
I think once we develop technology to transfer exact feelings and experiences between people so you could feel exactly what another person was feeling then humanity will begin to heal very quickly.
Do you think war is necessary?
Yes. We don’t choose war (at least we shouldn’t ) it forces itself upon us though. The real question is how do we fight it? When we finally realize that our loving and caring for people is what makes us powerful, not our weapons, then we might start to make progress.
What is your favorite City?
Los Angeles. That’s why I live here. There’s some other cool places too tho like berlin.
Name a place you would like to visit?
Bora Bora. I only know it from pictures online but it looks beautiful.
What is the number one thing on your bucket list?
Underwater selfie with a shark
If you could be any profession at all, what would it be?
Rock star ninja. Oh whoops! That is me. 😉
How important is music in your life?
Music itself isn’t as important as the wholeness and healing it brings to people.
Is there a non-profit you would like everyone to know about?
Yes! Covenant house is a non-profit that provides food and shelter to the homeless youth here in LA. This is an important charity for me cuz my family has dealt with homelessness in the past. On March 18, I’m part of a team called covenant house squad that will be doing an all night sleep out where we will sleep on the streets for the night to raise awareness for the charity. If you’d like to donate to our team or learn more about it check out this link.
What is your favorite Inspirational quote?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” – Marianne Williamson
Do you have a favorite animal?