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Interview: Markus Kratzer – Out of the wheelchair to the finish line

Posted on: Sonntag 12th Februar 2017

Markus Kratzer is a family father, full time working and an enthusiastic triathlete. What sounds quite normal is anything but self-evident for the 44-year-old. In 2006, the age group athlete had a serious bicycle accident. During one of his training rides a car driver missed him. The consequences: 13 months of hospital, “Incomplete cross-section paralysis”. Four spinal surgeries and a long road of rehabilitation followed during which he had to learn to sit, stand and walk again.

But Markus Kratzer did not give up. In 2009, he was back racing a long distance triathlon. To this day, triathlon is “much more” for him than just sport. We’ve talked to him.

Hello Mr. Kratzer,
what did your last training session look like?

It was dark, cold and snowy outside. I went for a 45 minute run, followed by a snowshoe hike with backpack, followed by an hour of spinning in my “sports cellar”. Three hours of endurance training and it was anything but boring.

What does training mean to you today, in contrast to the time before your accident?

I like the motto “sport is the gathering of emotions”. Training, for me, is almost worth as much as the race day itself.

Just three years after the accident you’ve crossed the finish line of a long distance triathlon. What are the most beautiful moments you remember?

Markus Kratzer
Markus Kratzers bike after the accident.

Standing in T1 the day before the race. I had fought for this moment so much. I had tears in my eyes … and I knew: swimming – no problem. 180 kilometers of cycling – no problem. But whether my back would be able to handle the marathon – that was in question then. During my training runs it had never lasted more than 25 kilometers.
Then, at kilometer 28, when my back really hurt, our son Johannes (four years old by then) brought me back into run mode with his children’s drum. Also, my triathlon-friend Franz E. was coaching me during the whole race. A priceless help! My still very sporty dad was standing at kilometer 35 and looked me into the eyes. In jeans and sneakers, he had actually come to watch. Spontaneously he then ran with me for five kilometers. On the last few meters, I was accompanied by our children Luzia and Johannes. An unforgettable emotional experience!


Markus-KratzerTo cross the finish line. For you it was much harder than it is already. How did you manage to fight through the difficult times?

To answer this question briefly is difficult, but I’ll start with that: I’m occasionally speaking about my recovery process to give other people strength. After all, I was confronted with the diagnosis of severe polytrauma, incomplete cross-section. I was in good hands with the medical care and the four spine operations. During the first months, however, I couldn’t even think of training. On the contrary: After weeks of my compulsory stay in bed I was grateful for the first breaks in a wheelchair.
My family and friends were supporting me. As well as physiotherapists, osteopaths, naturopaths, doctors, pain therapists, mental coaches, psychologists.

I had already completed advanced training in neuro-linguistic programming before the accident. This mental training played an enormous role for me. To focus on the “successful stages” over and over again and not to think about how life was earlier. I still remember exactly how many countless sessions of Aqua jogging were necessary to recover. No, that was not fun, but necessary!

Visualization was (and is) an emotional help that helped me on bad days: I already had a finisher photo of Ironman Zurich together with our daughter Luzia. This photo was with me in every single rehab measure. I also wanted our son Johannes to experience such a finish – according to the motto: equal right for all. The photo, with both children, now hangs in our kitchen.

Two questions helped me during recovery: Who is good for me? What is good for me?

0106It is not always easy to motivate yourself for a time-consuming training. Sometimes long distance training might even be a burden for athlete, his family and friends. Has you accident changed the view on sports and everyday life?

I am simply very grateful that I can still do triathlon and skiing.

Last year you’ve competed at Challenge Regensburg as a relay athlete. What did you like especially? Will you be there this year?

I liked the swim course very much. The finish line in the city center right next to Regensburg cathedral was terrific! 2017 the race unfortunately does not fit into the family holiday planning, but for 2018 I can imagine coming back very well. Our little daughter is four years old now – equal right for all!?

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