Humans of HOKA: Juan Sanchez

A close up shot of Juan Sanchez.

What inspires you to run? For Juan Sanchez, it’s the promise of self-improvement and a way to practice gratitude.

After overcoming a rare degenerative condition that left him bedbound as a child, Sanchez has been eager to make up the steps he missed.

Fast forward to today, Sanchez is a successful musician, teacher and athlete. We sat down with him to discuss running, music and the power of hope.

You can learn more about Sanchez’s journey in the second film in the Humans of HOKA series, premiering October 13.

FF: I understand you underwent a lot of medical treatments as a child. What was that like?

It was very colorful, sometimes very dark, sometimes very bright. I was surrounded by love and hope, but deep inside I was very fearful.

Unfortunately I became very ill by the age of four or five. My childhood went from playing soccer on Sundays with my dad to being paralyzed for years and not being able to move.

At a young age, I was hearing doctors say they might have to amputate my leg. I heard that and I was terrified. At the same time, I heard my parents telling me that everything was going to be fine. I chose to trust them and believe in them.

Throughout all of this, there was something very beautiful - hope. Hope was something that my parents taught me how to cultivate. Hope is not something that you wait for, it is something that you need to work on.

It’s not every day that you actually experience what it’s like to lose the things you love the most.

FF: It sounds like you have a really strong relationship with your parents.

I come from a very small family. It’s just my mom, my dad, my sister and me. My sister unfortunately passed away a few years ago, which is addressed in the film. We are a very close family and when that situation happened with my disease we really became super close.

They never treated me like the little kid that was sick, or even like a little kid. They were always up front with me about what was going on. When I could read, my mom chose to read with me the diagnosis from my records so that I could understand what was going on.

I was always exposed to the reality of my situation. It was never “Oh don't worry, it’s going to be okay,” it was “This is bad, but we're going to figure it out.”

We've always been very close and we created an open and honest relationship as friends. When my sister passed, we already had that open line of communication, so we were able to grieve together even though we were in different countries.

From being unable to walk to running at a high level, your running journey has been a remarkable one. How did you first get started?

Juan Sanchez runs past the camera.

I learned how to walk again by the age of twelve. That was amazing, but then I realized I didn’t really know how to walk. That was a really heavy realization. I had to go through endless and very painful physical therapy.

I was constantly thinking of ways to become stronger and cooler, to be that guy that everyone looks up to. Fast forward a few years later, I finally started playing soccer again.

I really wanted to make up for all the time I had lost not being able to walk, and get into my best physical shape. I started playing soccer every day and skateboarding. Some of my training for soccer and skateboarding was running to get my legs stronger, and it just became a passion.

Then I started having injuries again, like broken bones from skateboarding and ACL injuries from soccer. The doctors said you might not be able to play soccer or skateboard again. I decided not to believe them and to keep going. Somehow, running turned into my physical and mental therapy.

That journey hasn't stopped. I'm always running, always comparing myself to other athletes and creating challenges for myself in a positive way.

Running has become a ritual for me. Some people meditate, some people have to have their coffee in the morning. For me, it’s stretching and being thankful that my legs work, even if they're sore. I have to get out there and catch up on my steps. I still feel like I need to catch up on all the steps that I didn't take as a kid.

You speak about music in the film. What is your relationship with music like, and how has it evolved through the years?

I started playing music when I was injured. My grandfather gave me a drum. He was like “Hey, I don't know how to help you with how you're feeling but I've seen that musicians are happy no matter what when they're playing. Just drum your pain away.”

I started studying music when I was nine and that's when it became really serious to me. I'm now a professional musician. I went to school to study music, and that’s been the way I've been traveling the world. It's been a really great journey and it’s given me the opportunity to run around the world.

I’m a composer, I make music for films, I produce, and I have a company called Soul Flow House where we amplify the soul through sound. We teach children to become confident and curious through music and listening skills.

Music is kind of the language that I really speak.

My mission is to inspire, and that's a really big responsibility. Sometimes we don't know that people are looking up to us.

Juan Sanchez sits with his legs crossed.

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