Cliff Diving

Cliff divers lace up their running shoes for a good cause

Athletes and crew from the Cliff Diving World Series will be running for those who can't during this year's Wings for Life World Run on May 8.
By Chris Magill
6 min readPublished on
Miguel Garcia, Orlando Duque and Maria Paula Quintero
© Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool
In less than two weeks, on Sunday, May 8, a team of Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series athletes and crew will don their running shoes for a very special cause – the Wings for Life World Run, a global event that takes place annually to raise money for research into spinal cord injury.
In recent years, the likes of David Colturi, Constantin Popovici and Rhiannan Iffland, to name just a few, have joined thousands of people around the world by taking to their local streets for this globally coordinated run. Participants can choose to run with others or on their own, using the dedicated app to challenge themselves against the Virtual Catcher Car.
Ahead of this year’s run, we caught up for a chat with Colombian wildcard Miguel Garcia, who currently holds the distance record among the cliff diving ‘virtual team’. The 31-year-old took part for the first time two years ago, running with his stepdaughter and fellow cliff diver, Maria Paula Quintero, and he’ll be hitting the streets in his hometown of Cali once again this year.

You achieved a distance of 23.9km in 2020. What are your memories of that?

Miguel Garcia: I ran with Maria Paula, and she is normally so much better than me. We were going at the same pace, and I remember the moment she stopped, I was like, ‘hey, I’m winning, so I’ll keep doing it to the end to see what my limit is’. At one point, I just stopped, and after like one minute, the car caught me. Running isn’t something I’m so good at, so to reach that distance was just amazing.

That is indeed a great distance for someone ‘not so good at running’!

Yeah, I’ve never been so good at endurance to keep it going for a long time. The thing was, during the pandemic, I had a lot of free time and not too much to do. One of the easier things to do to keep fit was to run, so I just started running twice a day. It got easier and easier, and I improved a lot. That’s the reason I did a good job. I was just trying to keep in shape, and running was an easy way.

So, that was two years ago. Are you challenging yourself to beat that distance this time?

I think it will be more like ‘let’s see what happens’. I’m not so sure I’ll go that far this time, to be honest. With all the responsibilities I have, plus being able to train in the pool now, I have not focused so much on my endurance. I’ve been more focused on strength and explosive technique, which I want to improve. But I will try. It’s a good responsibility to have that record, and I will try to keep it.

How important is running and endurance to a cliff diver?

I think it’s important for all athletes to have some level of running because it’s one of the best exercises to keep your body strong. It helps you through the core, the legs, the cardiovascular system. In general, it’s really important to have that level of resistance and endurance. And even for recovery, because if your body is used to working out for a long session, it’s easier to recover it, to recover from injuries, to recover the energy again.

Miguel Garcia of Colombia dives during the second training session of the fifth stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, Islet Franco do Campo, Azores, Portugal on July 17th 2015.
Miguel Garcia in action in the Azores back in 2015

Cliff diving isn’t all about the 27-metre leap. The walk from the water to the platform is sometimes tough, right?

Yes, of course. For example, in the Azores, it’s really challenging. The first time I was there, I was more scared about getting to the top than the dive, climbing up all those rocks. It was really exhausting; out of the water, back up to the top, over and over. You have to be in good shape and have good energy. When you are climbing, you are using different leg muscles than you are used to using. It’s tricky sometimes.

But it’s good also, it makes you appreciate the opportunity to move in every way. When you imagine a situation where you are not able to move freely and do what you want to do, it’s really frustrating. I think you have to be really grateful for everything because you never know what’s going to happen.

Away from training and competition, what keeps you busy?

I am a diving coach here in Cali. I love to compete, that’s my passion. To challenge myself against others feels really good. But to help people reach their goals and reach their highest potential makes me feel even better.

When Maria Paula started diving, all the other coaches told her she was not good enough and to find something else. She came to me and said she really wanted to do it. I told her if she wanted to, I think it’s possible. It’s more about being disciplined, about keeping on trying and not giving up. I really admire all my athletes, and they have taught me a lot too.

Miguel Garcia during a coaching session in Cali, Colombia.
Coaching the next generation

Is it difficult coaching a family member?

I have been Maria Paula’s coach since the beginning. We try to keep the family relations and coaching separate, and I think so far, we have managed to do that. Everything that happens in the pool stays in the pool. It’s the only way that it’s going to work.

Sometimes I have to be blunt with her, to be tough, and other times I have to be like a friend and other times like a counsellor. There are a lot of roles that I have to play, but it works well.

And this year, you’ll both run together again on May 8?

I talked to her and told her I’m doing this interview, so I have to do it again this year haha! I told her she can’t let me do it alone, she has to do it with me, and she said ‘yeah, no worries’. So, yes, I think we’re going to do it together.

Maria Paula Quintero and Miguel Garcia running in Cali, Colombia.
Quintero and Garcia are planning to run together again this year
The Wings for Life World Run motto is ‘running for those who can’t’, and Red Bull Cliff Diving is proud to see Miguel, Maria Paula and all the other athletes and crew who will participate this year, contributing to such a special cause.