50K Treadmill World Record Attempt

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The impact of the coronavirus has extended far beyond those who have become infected and has changed how everyone lives their day to day life. In these unfamiliar times, amid a global pandemic, it is important to remember that we will get through this and amazing things can still be accomplished. running.COACH teamed up with orienteering world champion Matthias Kyburz setting out to prove this by breaking the 50 kilometer treadmill world on Thursday April 16th record while helping raise money to for the COVID-19 crisis.

Why we run – Why people participate in ultramarathon races

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About the author and the text: Christopher Stern is an orienteer and a runner, and this is the conclusion of his Matura thesis (graduation thesis in High School). Interviews with six ultramarathon runners, three of them female and three of them male, to find out what motivates them to participate regularly in ultramarathon races.

In very short, the motivation can be described by the following words. The ultramarathon is about experiencing an adventure in nature in all its facets, something that is intrinsically rewarding. Ultramarathoners seek their limits and a sense of community. It is about revelling in sunsets and enjoying the tranquillity while running in the mountains and getting into the state of flow.

However, motivation is something personal and differs from runner to runner. Hence, a more specific conclusion split into categories of motivation is given. The conclusion of the thesis draws upon semi-structured interviews and a qualitative analysis. For curious readers, the Matura thesis, explaining the methods and including the original interviews, is linked below.

Their motivation is of intrinsic nature

There are runners which only participate to prove the world that they are capable of running such a distance. Though, to run several competitions means that only intrinsic reasons can motivate enough to withstand such agonies. Experienced runners get mostly rewarded by the experience of the race itself, not by results nor by the admiration of others.

It is about seeking limits

Ultramarathoners want to find their limits. And once they found them, they try to go beyond them. It lies in the nature of long distances to challenge the body as well as the mind. To cope with difficulties, mental lows and the fear of dropping out of the race is part of the experience and appreciated by most of the runners. If they finish despite all the difficulties, the happiness and complacency is even greater.

It is about finding tranquillity through meditation

Tranquillity is the state of being calm. Running can be meditation, it helps the mind to become clear and calm. Most runners know the meditative character a short jog in the woods can have. The experience is said to just become more intense, the longer the distances get. Once an ultramarathoner is out for a day or even longer, his mind has plenty of time to ponder over questions, over their life or even over why they run. The silence of nature is the perfect condition to meditate.

It is about the movement

Running is a simple movement. Deeply rooted by evolution, humans must have loved running since long ago. Ultramarathoners especially love the movement because it adds speed, so more nature can be seen in shorter time, yet it is slow enough to pay attention to the surroundings. They say that if they bike or ski, the attention is more on the technique and the speed is too high to really enjoy the mountains. This leads to the next motivation that all of the runners pointed out to.

It is about nature

Being more specific, it is about mountains, the weather and lights. All of the runners love the mountains. Ultramarathon is their way to explore the vast amount of beautiful places in the Alps or elsewhere. It must be very impressive to get into a snowstorm in the middle of the night and experience a stunning sunrise the next morning.

They love the adventure

To run an ultramarathon is a journey. When they are on the trail for 24 hours or more, they experience a lot of unpredictable happenings. Changing weather, unknown responses of the body or the mind to the stress and a many instances where things can possibly go wrong make an ultramarathon an adventure.

It is about the flow

We all know it. The state when everything becomes easy, when we are completely immersed in the activity. Ultramarathoners enjoy this state for a prolonged period of time, which causes a lot of happiness. To feel the flow is a key aspect of motivation for some of the interviewees. The flow experienced while running might be particularly intense because it is amplified by the endorphine hormone released to let the body cope better with physical stress. This endogenous pain drug leads us to the next topic.

Addiction

Addiction is no motivation, but it can replace it. Certain ultramarathoners might be addicted to their sport. The flow, meditative moments as well as highs and lows are part of both, the ultramarathon or a drug trip. However, keeping in mind that everyone is low when deprived from a beloved activity and that everyone shall have the right to be passionate about something, I would say that none of the respondents was addicted. As long as one does not harm the body and keeps having social contacts, we should not be talking about an addiction. To keep social contacts takes us over to the last motivation.

The ultramarathon community

The community is essential for most of the respondents. As most runners might have experienced this fact themselves, running communities are often respect- and helpful. The community is very familiar and when someone has difficulties along the trail, he or she can always expect the help of the very next runner, even when this is a pro athlete going for the win. The relatively small community, if not at the UTMB, is very exquisite and wild.

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Runners High – The Flow Experience while Running

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Some runners regularly experience a “runners high”, others never experience it. Which conditions are most likely to lead to a blissful “flow-experience”?

Author: Dr. med. Sibylle Matter Brügger, Allg. Innere Medizin FMH, Sportmedizin SGSM, Manuelle Medizin SAMM, Sonographie Bewegungsapparat SGUM – Stv. Leiterin Sports Medical Center Medbase Bern Zentrum

Great, awesome, an incredible feeling of happiness – more than 25 adjectives are used by runners to describe the “runners high”. This proofs how hard it is to grasp this flow-experience.

There is no common definition for this – not to mention a guarantee that you will experience it while running: “I have been a runner for 25 years and can train as much as I want, but the “runners high” is unknown to me, a runner confesses. He is certainly not the only one. Some even doubt that the runners high really exists.

But psychologists agree: the flow experience exists. Not only during running, but also during many other sports and activities. In sports climbing as well as in “diving” into a book where you forget the world while reading. The decisive factor is that it is a continuous activity, without interruptions. Volleyball players, for example, who alternate intensive playing phases with short breaks, therefore hardly ever get into the “flow”.

The first person to investigate the phenomenon in detail was the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Tschiksentmihaj). He described the flow experience as a state of “unified flow”, in which action follows action and humans merge into their activity, fully focused on what they are doing. Time flies by most of the time. Playing children “master” how to get into the flow. In such moments adults can feel feelings of ecstasy, euphoria or deep inner contentment. Sometimes it even lasts for one or two hours after the run.

But how do runners reach this blissful state in which running becomes effortless? It’s not that easy, and it certainly can’t be forced. But: You can create the conditions for the runners high to appear sooner:

Neither under- nor overstraining yourself
It is important that the current training and one’s own goals match the current performance. For example, if you are dissatisfied with your pace or have unrealistically high expectations, you have a lower chance of getting into the flow experience. Performance-oriented people who set their goals well, on the other hand, have good chances.

Run with your head free and relaxed
If you are tired or chewing on a problem, the probability for a runners high is small. The thoughts should not be focused on a particular thing and the overall attitude to life should be positive.

High training intensity
The flow is almost only reached by those who are both well trained and train at 80 to 90 percent of their maximum heart rate. Beginners can only keep up with this training intensity for a maximum of two minutes. But that is too short. They will therefore hardly ever get into the “flow”.

Schedule sufficient time
The flow experience comes at the earliest after 20 to 30 minutes of running.

Running in a pleasant environment
When running through a city where constant attention is needed to avoid overlooking other traffic participants, switching off is impossible (and not advisable). Some runners are best off on well known routes, such as a route through nature without abrupt changes. Others succeeded for the first time on a route that had not been mastered for some time.

Run alone
When running in a group, the flow experience occurs less often than when running alone. If you are not on your own, you have the best chance of a flow experience if your training partner is similarly well trained.

How the runners high exactly is achieved is unclear. It is triggered by the heart rate, which reaches a certain height. During this almost meditative state, the concentration of endorphins in the blood increases. These substances produced by the body have a pain-relieving and mood-lifting effect similar to morphine. However, they are not the cause of the flow, but rather a (pleasant) side effect.

Not so for the endocannabinoids. They are probably partly responsible for the flow experience. These are various cannabis-like molecules which the body produces and which have an effect on various organs. Endocannabinoids can, for example, protect brain cells from hyperstimulation, relax the soul or have an anti-inflammatory effect in the intestine.

Researchers have also found evidence that the nerve cells in the frontal cortex reduce their activity during runners high. However, what exactly happens in the brain is still unclear. But for those who are able to experience this feeling of happiness, this is probably of secondary importance.

Medbase running.coach

Record Runs at Sierre-Zinal

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Maude Mathys (2:49:20) and Kilian Jornet (2:25:35) are the winners of this year’s Sierre-Zinal. In the star-studded field, both the women’s and men’s course records were broken. The course records fell so surprisingly clearly that in our quiz almost nobody, even close to guessing the right winner time.

Sierre-Zinal is a legendary trail race because of its nearly five decades of history and revered athletic performances, and on Sunday along its famed trails in the Swiss Alps another trail running legend added yet another chapter to both his own storied legacy and the race’s as well. Setting out with a blazing fast pace, Spain’s Kilian Jornet (Team Salomon) ran away from one of the most competitive trail running fields in recent memory to win in 2:25:35, shattering Jonathan Wyatt’s longstanding course record of 2:29:12 by three minutes and 37 seconds. It was Jornet’s seventh win at Sierre-Zinal in nine tries.

On the women’s side, Switzerland’s Maude Mathys (Team Salomon) also broke the Sierre-Zinal course record, winning in 2:49:20 to best Anna Pichrtova’s 2008 time by nearly five minutes. Both Jornet and Mathys won from the front, surging to the lead on the challenging early uphill.

Jornet was chased valiantly by 2016 winner Petro Mamu from Eritrea, who also broke the former course record, finishing just 56 seconds behind the Spaniard in 2:26:31. American runner Jim Walmsley (Team Hoka), competing for the first time at Sierre-Zinal, was 3rd in an impressive 2:31:52. Juan Carlos Carera was 4th in 2:32:52 and Great Britain’s Robbie Simpson was 5th in 2:33:55. Jornet athlete grabbed the lead a few strides into the race and was alone from there on out. The course gains 2,200 meters from the start in Sierre to the finish line in the idyllic alpine village of Zinal, rolling along before a big downhill finish. Jornet wasted no time letting the competition know he was going for broke. At the Chandolin checkpoint he was ahead of Mamu by two minutes 1:05:59 and in hot pursuit of the course record set by Wyatt in 2003.

In the women’s race, Mathys made sure Jornet wasn’t the only one breaking a record on the day. Her time of 2:49:20 was five minutes ahead of fellow Swiss Judith Wyder (Team Salomon) who finished in 2:54:20, and it broke the former course record of 2:54:26 by five minutes and six seconds. Wyder was also under the former record by six seconds.

Mathys was 3rd at the Dolomyths Sky run in Italy a couple of weeks back, but on Sunday she used her strength in the uphill to put distance between herself and the field in the early going. She was more than three minutes ahead at the Chandolin checkpoint and was never seen again by the rest of the pack.

Italy’s Silvia Rampazzo (Team Tornado) was 3rd with another strong effort on the Golden Trail World Series. She finished in 2:56:17. New Zealand’s Ruth Croft (Team Scott) continued her amazing consistency with a 4th place finish in 3:01:56, while France’s Anais Sabrié was 5th in 3:01:58.

Record times in the overview, including split times:

SierreZinal 2019 Record Runs
SierreZinal 2019 Record Runs

The whole livestream of the race can be watched here::

All  Results can be found here: https://www.datasport.com/live/ranking/?racenr=21138

 

running.COACH Quiz

And here is the results and the winners of our quiz. The winners all win a free running.COACH 3-month subscription:
1.) Winner women’s race + winning time
Correct answer: Maude Mathys / 2.49:20.
Bet on the right runner and estimated with the best finish time: Christoph Kellerhals (SUI), his estimated time: 2:52:58

 

2.) Winner men’s race + winning time
Correct answer: Kilian Jornet / 2.25:35.
Bet on the right runner and estimated with the best finish time: Quentin (SUI), his estimated time: 2:27:45.

 

3.) Best estimated winning time in women’s race:
Correct answer: 2.49:20.
Guillermo Morea (ARG) estimated best with 2:50:00 (His tip for the best woman was ‘Eli Anne Dvergsdal (NOR)’).

 

4.) Best estimated winning time in the men’s race:
Correct answer: 2.25:35.
Quentin (SUI), see number 2, estimated best. The next closer tip is from Dirk (LUX) inherits the prize with 2:27:48 2:50:00 (his bet for the fastest man was also Kilian Jornet).

 

5) a) Which country has the most top 10 placings? (W+M) + b) Will the records in women’s and men’s races be broken? + c) how many men run under 2:40h? how many women under 3:10h?

 

Correct answers: :
a.) Best Trailrunning Nation: Switzerland

Sierre Zinal 2019 Top Men and Women
Sierre Zinal 2019 Nunber of  Top 10 Men and Women by Country

b.) Record broken women: yes
b.) Record broken men: yes
c.) Number of Top Men/Women 2019 Men 16, Women 9.

Sierre Zinal Top Men Women
The figures prove very well that this year was quite a special year in terms of level.

Gabe from Catalonia (ESP) has solved this task best. She estimated the number of top men and women exactly and also predicted it on the men’s record. However, she was betting on Spain for the best trail running nation.
6.) Chance winner:
Paul Halford (GBR)
We are looking forward to the race becoming a great spectacle in 2020! And who knows, next year maybe the National Television will also be there.

Jim Walmsley Sierre Zinal
Jim Walmsley Sierre Zinal

Sierre-Zinal 2019 – the battle of the giants!

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Sierre-Zinal is not a normal mountain or trail race. What Wimbledon is for tennis, the Wacken Open Air for heavy metal fans or the Lauberhorn descent for skiers, Sierre-Zinal is for mountain and trail runners: something extraordinary.

The course measures 31 kilometres and takes the runners from Sierre (570 m.a.s.l.) to 2425 m.a.s.l. for the first two thirds of the course, before descending 750 m to Zinal for the last third. This results in a total of 2200 metres ascent and 1100 metres descent. (19 miles, 7,200 feet of uphill and 3,600 feet of downhill)

Map and profile of the race: https://runningcoach.me/en/events/2313

Since 1974 the traditional event has been taking place, making Sierre-Zinal the oldest mountain race among the great European competitions in the mountains. There is much to be said for the fact that this year’s edition will be a very special one!

The reason for this are the numerous top athletes who will make the running course between Sierre and Zinal unsafe this year. Some of them in the shortest portrait:

MEN

Kilian Jornet, Spain, age 31
The Catalan set out to claim his seventh (!) victory at the Sierre-Zinal. He won the first race of the Golden Trail World Series and has the track record firmly in his sights.

You can read more about Kilian Jornet in the running.COACH blog post from 2018.

Jim Walmsley, USA, age 29
This will be his first start at the traditional mountain run. Actually a specialist for the ultra distances, the special distance profile could accommodate him however.

Davide Magnini, ITA, age 21
Coming from ski touring he is the shooting star of the scene. He won both the Mont Blanc Marathon and the Dolomyths Run. Last year, he finished 7th in Zinal, 5 minutes behind Jornet – betting that he will be a top performer again this year?

Nadir Maguet, ITA, age 26
His compatriot Davide Magnini stood in front of the sun twice this year – both the Mont Blanc Marathon and the Dolomyths Run Maguet finished 2nd.

Bart Przedwojewski, POL, age 26
The Pole is the leader of the Golden Trail World Series after the first three runs.

Marc Lauenstein, SUI, age 38
Unforgotten his triumph in 2013, when he won the race in the final descent. After a foot injury, Lauenstein is now back and wants to intervene again this year.

Article about Marc Lauenstein in the running.COACH Blog (2018)

Jacob Adkin, GBR, age 23
The British runner became European mountain champion in Zermatt in June. What can we expect from him on the 2.5 times longer course?

More favorites in the men’s race:

  • Robbie Simpson, GBR (2nd 2018)
  • Robert Surum, KEN (3rd 2018)
  • Francesco Puppi, ITA ( 4th 2018)
  • Petro Mamu, ERI (1st 2016)
  • Rémi Bonnet, SUI (4th at Mountain running European Championships 2019)
  • Stian Aarvik, NOR (2nd at Mountain running European Championships 2019)
  • Elhousine Elazzaoui, MAR
  • Jan Margarit, ESP
  • Teboho Noosi, LES (Wants to break the record)
  • Max King, USA (1st Mountain running World Championships 2011, 3rd 2017)
  • Yokouchi Yutaro, JAP
  • Florian Neuschwander, GER
  • Sage Canaday, USA
  • Julien Rancon, FRA
  • Andrew Douglas, GBR
  • Petter Engdahl, SWE
  • Juan Carlos Carera, MEX
  • Geoffrey Gikuni, KEN

Strong locals – Ready for a top placement

  • Stephan Wenk, SUI
  • Jonathan Schmid, SUI
  • Joey Hadorn, SUI
  • Pascal Buchs, SUI
  • Stefan Lustenberger, SUI
  • Martin Anthamatten, SUI
  • Werner Marti, SUI

WOMEN

Lucy Murigi, KEN, age 34
This year the Kenyan woman sets out to bring home the hat trick. After two victories in the past two years, this year she could take her third consecutive victory at Sierre-Zinal.

Ruth Croft, NZL, age 30
After a victory at the Mont Blanc Marathon and a second place at the Dolomyths Run she is the current leader of the Golden Trail World Series.

Judith Wyder, SUI, age 31
In the Dolomyths Run, the 31-year-old Swiss shocked her opponents by improving the course record by seven minutes. This makes the former world class orienteer one of the favourites on home ground as well.

Maude Mathys, SUI, age 32
The highest ranking is probably the current and triple European champion in mountain running. At the Dolomyths Run she showed what she can do at the uphill. Her roller qualities are also very good. Last year she ran a street marathon in 2:31:17.

Eli Anne Dvergsdal, NOR, age 27 
A victory at the beginning of the Golden Trail Series and the second place in the intermediate ranking speaks for itself. The Norwegian should be hot for a top place.

Simone Troxler, SUI, age 23
The third Swiss runner who can achieve a lot on home ground. At the last event in 2018, she showed what she was capable of and surprisingly finished third.

More favourites in the women’s race:

  • Sarah Tunstall, GBR
  • Elisa Desco, ITA
  • Carrion Gisela, ESP
  • Lina El Kott Helander, SWE
  • Ragna Debats, NED
  • Eli Gordon, ESP
  • Yiou Wang, USA
  • Silvia Rampazzo, ITA
  • Sarah McCormack, IRL
  • Holly Page, GBR

Strong locals – Ready for a top placement

  • Theres Leboeuf, SUI
  • Victoria Kreuzer, SUI
  • Maya Chollet, SUI
  • Alessandra Schmid, SUI

Who are your favorites? Are you a connoisseur of the trail and mountain running scene? Then prove it to us: https://forms.gle/Cr2YLY7ixcrpNkwB6

Start is on Sunday 11 August 2019 at 10:00 CET.

Race Planning / Runtime Calculator

If you are one of the 5200 participants and would like help with the race tactics, we can highly recommend our race calculator to calculate your possible finish time and your splits:

Written by Jonas Merz / Gabriel Lombriser

The 10 most beautiful marathons

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Marathon is the supreme discipline of long-distance running. They are not only attractive for top athletes, but also for hobby runners. The choice of events is almost endless. So which marathons are the most breathtakingly beautiful ones? We have put together our top 10.

Jungfrau-Marathon

With its 1,829 meters of altitude (of which approx. 1,500 meters only start from kilometer 25), the Jungfrau-Marathon, might not be a marathon for beginners. The finish is at 2,320 meters above sea level. This means that – after you have already run 25km on flat terrain –  the actual showdown only really begins with the remaining 1,500 meters of altitude difference in ever thinner air. It is therefore important to divide up your forces well so that you don’t experience any nasty surprises at the end. But the long ascent is definitely worth it and the view is truly magnificent.

Image: sbb.ch

Website: https://www.jungfrau-marathon.ch/en/

Country: Switzerland

Month: September

Course records: 2:49:02 (Jonathan Wyatt, 2003), 3:12.56 (Maude Mathys, 2017)

Number of participants: Record at 8,572

 

Tromsø Midnight Sun Marathon

The exceptional thing about this race is certainly the midnight sun, which gives it a unique atmosphere – granted that the weather plays along, of course. The combination of snow-covered mountain peaks and the sea is also very special. The course runs almost exclusively along the sea and is therefore much flatter than that of the Jungfrau-Marathon. On this course it is therefore much easier to achieve a good marathon time.

Tromsø Midnight Sun Marathon

Image: msm.no

Website: https://www.msm.no/en/

Land: Norway

Month: June

Course records: 2:20:31 (Ebrahim Abdulaziz, 2019), 2:38:22 (Brynhild Synstnes, 2019)

Number of participants 2019: 1,022

 

Queenstown International Marathon

Although, for most people, New Zealand doesn not exactly lie around the corner, this running experience is definitely worth the trip. Queenstown is located in the southern part of New Zealand’s South Island. On the course you will pass several smaller lakes in an idyllic landscape consisting of mountains, meadows and forest. The last 10 kilometers lead along the famous Lake Wakatipu to the center of Queenstown. This marathon is a relatively “pleasant” run with its approx. 330 m altitude, the alternating surface (tar and gravel path) and the moderate climate. According to the motto of the relaxed New Zealanders: Stay relaxed and enjoy!

Queenstown International Marathon

Image: queenstown-marathon.co.nz

Website: www.queenstown-marathon.co.nz

Country: New Zealand

Month: November

Course records: 2:23:56 (Samuel Wreford, 2017), 2:52:21 (Hannah Oldroyd, 2017)

Number of participants: 11,062 (so far registered for 2019)

 

Big Sur International Marathon

This marathon follows the Californian coast from Big Sur to Carmel (between Los Angeles and San Francisco). From Big Sur Station, 108m above sea level, the route goes 665m uphill and 770m downhill, so that in Carmel you almost reach sea level (3m above sea level). The endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean, the beaches, cliffs and gentle hills make this marathon a wonderful experience.

Big Sur International Marathon

Image: bigsurmarathon.com

Website: www.bigsurmarathon.com

Country: USA

Month: April

Course records: 2:16:39 (Brad Hawthorne, 1987), 2:41:45 (Svetlana Vasilyeva , 1996)

Number of participants 2018: 3,291

 

Great Wall Marathon

The Great Wall Marathon is truly an extraordinary marathon and certainly one of the most demanding. Most of the course is directly on the iconic Great Wall of China! There are several meters of altitude to climb, many of them in the form of stairs. The gradient of the course is up to 10% in some places. Thus, it is not for those aiming for a fast marathon time. However, this run not only offers amazing sceneries, but also an unforgettable cultural experience.

Great Wall Marathon

Image: great-wall-marathon.com

Website: www.great-wall-marathon.com

Country: China

Month: April

Course records: 3:09:18 (Jorge Maravilla, 2013), 3:32:12 (Siliva Serafini, 2013)

Number of participants 2019: 645

 

Patagonian International Marathon

The event takes place at the southern tip of the South American continent in western Patagonia, east of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field (the largest glacier area in the southern hemisphere outside Antarctica) and south of Torres del Paine National Park. The landscape is hilly, quite rough and adventurous and will surely be remembered for a long time.

Patagonian International Marathon

Image: patagonianinternationalmarathon.com

Website: www.patagonianinternationalmarathon.com

Country: Chile

Month: September

Course records: 2:57:36 (Luke Meyer, 2012), 3:30:29 (Inez-Anne Hagen, 2018)

Number of participants 2018: 148

 

Virgin Money London Marathon

If you prefer to a real classic among the marathons, the London Marathon is the right place for you. It doesn’t offer spectacular natural scenery, but a city sightseeing along several landmarks of the British capital. For this day, it seems that the entire population of London is in the streets to cheer on the many runners. The London Marathon is not only popular among hobby runners, is also an absolute favorite among the world’s top runners, as it is considered to be the fastest marathon in the world. Both the women’s and men’s world records were run here.

Virgin Money London Marathon

Image: Derby Telegraph

Website: https://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/

Country: Great Britain

Month: April

Course records: 2:02:37 (Eliud Kipchoge, 2019), 2:15:25 (Paula Radcliffe, 2003)

Number of participants 2019: 41,906

 

Mt. Fuji International Marathon 

The Mt. Fuji International Marathon is another jewel among the marathons. The race takes place in autumn, which means that it is relatively cool on the one hand, but at the same time the leaves on the trees have turned mesmerizing shades of red and gold. In combination with the white summit of Mt. Fuji in the background and the water of the two lakes you run around, you get an absolutely stunning landscape.

Mt. Fuji International Marathon 

Image: Spacebib.com

Website: https://fujisan-marathon.jp/english/

Country: Japan

Month: November

Course records: 2:21:36 (Yusuke Kodama, 2018), 2:39:47 (Tomomi Sawahata, 2018)

 

Kilimanjaro Marathon

The event takes place in Moshi, the largest city near Kilimanjaro, which lies about 800m above sea level. The route leads through parts of the city, many small farms and villages, banana and coffee plantations and forest areas, to the great delight of the local people who cheer the runners on. The highest freestanding mountain in the world dominates the whole area in the background with its presence.

Kilimanjaro Marathon

Image: World’s Marathons

Website: https://www.kilimanjaromarathon.com/

Country: Tansania

Month: Late February/ Early March

Course records: 2:13:50 (David Kiprono, 2012), 2:38:03 (Alice Kibor, 2016)

Number of participants 2018: 614

 

Petra Desert Marathon

The Petra Desert Marathon is a challenging adventure marathon in a beautiful desert region of the Jordan River. The race starts in an ancient city called Petra, from where the route leads around the city. The landscape consists of stone mountains, sand and bushes and the heat demands a lot of stamina from the participants. But the unique nature experience is definitely worth the sweat.

Petra Desert Marathon

Image: hdsports.at

Website: https://petra-desert-marathon.com/

Country: Jordan

Month: September

Course records: 3:15:03 (Salameh Abdel Karim Al Aqra, 2009), 3:43:25 (Inez-Anne Haagen, 2015)

Number of participants 2018: 121

 

We would like to emphasize that this list is subjective, and it was very difficult for us to make a selection. If you would like to add other marathons to the list, you are welcome to tell us in the comment field below. 😉

 

Article by: Marion Aebi

The limits of the human endurance performance: is it all in your head?

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There are limits to the human endurance. But what role does our brain play in it? As Alex Hutchinson, a Canadian scientist and journalist for renowned American magazines, will tell us in this interview: a big one!

Alex Hutchinson is himself an experienced runner and regularly publishes articles in the well-known endurance magazine Outside (after several years of writing for Runner’s World), where he covers a wide range of topics in the field of endurance sports. In his book Endure, he looks into the limits of human endurance performance and investigates influencing factors. According to Hutchinson, the role which our brain has in this is underestimated, while it is actually able to influence our performance considerably. We wanted to know how…

You write in your book that the limiting factor on our performance is not physical or mechanical, but pyschological. Do you mean by that that mental barriers prevent us from unravelling our full potential?

That’s a fair summary of what I wrote in Endure, but it’s maybe worth clarifying what I mean. To say that the limits are psychological doesn’t mean there are no physical or mechanical constraints and you can just “decide” to do whatever you want! It’s more subtle than that.

Imagine you’re running a 10K race. Is there any point during the race where, if someone pointed a gun at your head, you wouldn’t be able to accelerate? Maybe very close to the finish, but otherwise you’re always pacing yourself. If so, what is the physical or mechanical “limit” that’s holding you back during the first 9.9K? If often feels like you can’t go faster, but that’s because you know from experience that you shouldn’t go too fast early in a 10K or you’ll pay the price. So when you put it that way, I think pretty much everyone would agree that the limits to endurance are in some sense psychological. Who among us can really claim that their race execution was so perfect that they were right at the limit of their sustainable pace for every metre of the race?

Whether our body’s “full potential” really is a lot greater than we know is another tough question, but we’ll get into that below!

What exactly is the process in our brains tricking us into thinking we can’t go faster and how did you find out about this?

Nobody really knows the final answers at this point, but in the 1990s a scientist named Tim Noakes proposed that our brains act as what he called a “central governor” that prevents us from pushing to our true physical limits, presumably to protect us from serious damage. Since then there has been lots of scientific debate over how and why this might happen, and whether it’s really true.

The current theory that I find most convincing is that we’re guided by our subjective perception of effort. All the physiological signals we hear about—core temperature, lactate levels, heart rate, and so on—contribute to our general sense of how much effort it takes to continue. When that effort level gets too high relative to what we think we can sustain to the finish, we slow down. This is why on a hot day, we slow down very early in the race, long before we’re actually overheating: we’re responding not to the actual temperature, but to the perception of effort that is affected by the temperature.

How can we try and counteract this and learn where our actual limits are?

I think the question of “actual limits” will always remain hypothetical. There’s no such thing as the perfect race. So it’s more a question of learning to fight against our brain’s desire to slow down, so that we can get a little bit closer to a goal that we’ll never reach.

To some extent, I think just knowing the role of the brain in setting our apparent limits can help. In the middle of a race, if you feel that you’re slowing down, you might blame this on elevated lactate levels or something. If that’s what you think, then there’s nothing you can do but accept the slowdown, because it’s an unavoidable physical truth. But if you believe that you’re slowing down because the elevated lactate levels are making the race feel harder, then maybe this helps encourage you to keep fighting.

More generally, I think the type of positive mindset exhibited by runners like Eliud Kipchoge can make a difference, helping to alter your perception of effort. There’s been some fascinating research demonstrating this over the last few years.

So, are you saying that we can somehow “battle” the lactic acid?

You can’t use your mind to change your lactate levels. But perhaps you can change how you respond to those lactate levels. The thing to remember is that during a race or workout, we’re almost never running at a true “10 out of 10” effort. It would be physically impossible to run like that all time. Instead, we’re always trying to sustain a lower effort that gradually increases so we only hit 10 at the end of the race.

Maybe you’re at 8 halfway through the race, and then rising lactate levels make it feel more like 8.5. But maybe that subjective assessment of 8.5 is partly because you haven’t done a lot of anaerobic training this season, so it’s an unfamiliar sensation and you’re overreacting to how it feels. If you’re able to mentally reframe that feeling of lactate in the legs, perhaps your subjective assessment of effort goes back down to 8.3, and you’re able to sustain a slightly quicker pace to the finish.

Of course, no one actually calculates these numbers midrace! I’m just trying to illustrate what sort of calculations you’re constantly making, without even being aware of it, when you race.

How big an effect do you think it has on the performance of people if they get rid of those mental limits? For example, how much faster do you think the marathon World record could be in the future?

To be honest, I suspect the potential improvements are biggest for recreational athletes, and smallest for elite world-class athletes. One of the traits that enables an athlete to reach the top is the ability to push through discomfort. That said, I do think that even the best athletes can sometimes reach another level. When Eliud Kipchoge ran his 2:01:39 world record last year, I think that performance was partly enabled by the confidence he got from running 2:00:25 under artificial conditions at the Breaking2 race the year before. It changed his perception of what was possible, freeing him up to be aggressive in the second half of the world-record race.

Although professional sports people have experience in trying to get as close to their limit as possible, they still have to learn and relearn every season. There’s some great data showing pain tolerance increases in elite swimmers over the course of a season, maxing out as they approach their goal race. It takes constant practice to suffer well.

Does it work only for endurance sports or also for others?

As a rule of thumb, I’d say the longer the event, the greater the role of the mind. But there are some great experiments showing that mental factors do a play a role even in short bursts of activity. There was one famous study from the 1960s where researchers snuck up behind their subjects and fired a starter’s pistol in their ear right before they did a maximal lift. The fear boosted their strength by 7 or 8 percent!

We hope that some of the thinks Alex mentioned here will also help you to improve your performance in the future!

 “The difference only is thinking. You think it’s impossible. I think it’s possible.” – Eliud Kipchoge before he ran his World record in Berlin

 

Photo: Florence Tsui

Alex Hutchinson is a science journalist who specialises in writing about endurance sports for Outside Magazine and other publications, and he is the author of the New York Times bestseller Endure. In his own running career, Alex ran for the Canadian national team as middle-distance and cross-country runner. His best times were 3:42 (1500m), 8:00 (3000m), and 13:52 (5000m). These days, Alex still runs most days and competes occasionally in road and cross-country races.

 

 

 

 

Edited by: Marion Aebi

Producing future Olympic champions for India – The Indian Track Foundation

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Can you name one Indian Olympic medalist in middle- or long-distance track running? No? Well, no wonder – there are not any. Read here, how Karan Singh wants to change that, dedicating his life to training and raising Indian kids to become future Olympic medalists.

“My name is Karan Singh, and I’m the Head Coach of the Indian Track Foundation in Ooty, The Nilgiris, India. My life’s mission is to produce Olympic champions for India in athletics. I, along with my family, relocated to Ooty in 2018 to start my dream for India.”

This is how 33-year-old Karan Singh introduces himself. What he doesn’t mention here is that he himself ran for professional running teams like Team Run Eugene and Eugene Health and Performance and trained in the United States for five years, winning numerous national level track and road racing titles. Apart from running, his background includes being a post-graduate from Oxford Brookes University (UK), being a state level cricket player, and having work experience with leading sports organizations like Nike and ESPN-Star Sports. We wanted to learn more about Karan and his project…

How did you become a runner in India, a country which isn’t really known for being a country of runners?

I took up running as I was a natural at it and my aim was to represent India at the 2012 Olympics. I was inspired by Steve Prefontaine, the legendary American distance runner. When I started running, I just wanted to run like him and make a difference to the sport like he did. I love running and it’s my passion. It’s so real: you get out of it exactly what you put into it and there’s no mucking around. Oh, and you’d be surprised how popular running is here! Sometimes, I get taken aback by the sheer numbers.

Then why do you think your country hasn’t won any medals at World Championships or Olympic games on track yet?

There are so many reasons, I could write a book. Our entire system doesn’t create an environment to produce those medals. We have the talent and we are slowly starting to see some good performances from Indian athletes at the global level. But we still have to build the right culture for success. The conditions in terms of training, coaching, opportunities and competition from grassroot to national level don’t allow the athletes to excel their sport at a world class level. As an athlete, you want to be part of something beautiful and special, you want to feel wanted. Of course, there must be an end goal and a career path, but most of all, there has to be a positive setup, where you work towards your goals as a team and a family. This mentality often lacks in India.

What was your motivation for founding the Indian Track Foundation and what does it look like?

After my time in the US, I moved back to India with the following mission in mind: coaching young athletes and putting India on the global athletics map. This is when the Indian Track Foundation was born. The idea of the Foundation is to scout, to house, to educate and to train tribal and rural talent from the most interior parts of India and to train them in the name of the Olympic mission. I am very passionate about both India and athletics, which is why I build my whole life around the two. One cannot muck around with big missions and goals like this one. It has to be the biggest driver of your life and comes before even your family (most of the time). This sacrifice is crucial and my wife plays the biggest role in this project, by being so understanding of my unconditioned committment. Me, my wife and my daughter also live together with the 10 athletes (aged 10-15) of our Foundation in one home like a big family. We started this project in 2017 by travelling to remote locations to hunt for raw running talent, before beginning with our full scale operations in August 2018.

You speak about tribal and rural talent. Which tribes and areas are you referring to?

We have scouted our athletes from the Munda and Birhor tribe in Jharkhand and the Siddi tribe in Gujarat. These kids are natural hunters and some are decedents of the bantu and sub Saharan tribes, who were brought in as slaves from Africa by the Arabs and the British. They possess raw natural running talent, giving them great preconditions for becoming future champions.

Is there any scientific evidence saying that members of these tribes are especially good runners?

No there is no scientific evidence to this as, due to lack of know-how and opportunity, these tribes have never come out of their villages. I have seen those young athletes run for myself in their jungles and villages. I base my choices on my observations on ground and I back myself on having an eye for the talent I’m looking for. Our foundation’s head scout plays a very important role in identifying the talent and getting them recruited from the interiors. He is one of the most experienced people in terms of talent identification.

How does the Foundation fund itself and what about education for the kids?

The Indian Track Foundation has a board and, as a team, we raise funds for our project. I use my personal funds too. All our athletes are homeschooled, but we have ties with a school where they go and give their examinations once a year. They study English, Hindi, Grammar, History, Science and Mathematics. As for the teaching person, we have found a lovely lady, who meets our requirements and is great to work with.

You live according to the mantra “Eat, pray, train, sleep, repeat”. What religions do you and the kids belong to and how do you combine the different ones?

Along with my wife and daughter, I belong to the Hindu religion, and my athletes belong to all sorts of religions: from Christianity to Hindu to Sarna’s. We pray together and there is no divide of any kind. We go to church and temple the same number of times in a month and all of us together. In our home we have a prayer area, where we have Gods and Goddesses of most religions in the world. This was my wife’s idea and we all love praying together. It brings us closer together as a family.

Is the Foundation all based in Ooty or do you have training bases in other parts of the country?

The main base is in Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India. 2,250 meters above sea level. In addition, we currently have three unstructured village centres, where we scout and recruit our athletes from. I also run a track club in New Delhi called Indian Track Club, where I travel to every 2-3 weeks and spend time with my athletes there.

Do you have fellow coaches or do you coach all by yourself?

I coach alone and am currently training my assistant coach who is also the warden and the leader of the group. She’s a 19-year-old tribal woman whom I have handpicked as my right hand for all ground components. She manages and oversees areas like cooking, cleaning, training, studying, personal issues , etc.

What does your training philosophy look like?

My philosophy is based on understanding the individual both as a person and as an athlete. The training is therefore absolutely tailored to each athlete. That’s what I learnt in the US: this can’t be a one stop programme where everyone just does the same thing. Some of the sessions are in group formats, but within those sessions, each athlete and group is working according to different guidelines and structures (see video of a group session below). I further believe in long term development and on the importance of quality. Every session has to have a purpose. I don’t see the point of going into a session without a plan or without excitement. The training has to be a mix, especially for young and developing athletes. Their body needs to recover, they need to be preserved and not at risk for overuse injuries. But most importantly, they must have the time of their lives! Enjoying the sport is key, along with having a strong work ethic. We do 2 high-intensity sessions a week. Shorter and Longer sessions vary depending on the programme. Both short and longer sessions can be either easy or tough, depending on the athletes’ mental and physical structure. But we mostly do short sessions, as the kids right now are not ready to do high intensity long sessions.  Generally, our workouts last for 2 hours and we train twice a day. From the age of 13 onwards I start focusing on distance-based running but I always keep in mind that developing athletes primarily need to build up a good base level and that their range of distances in this initial stage should still be rather wide. All my athletes will specialise in events from the 400m and above.

Are there any alternative sessions too, like biking, for example? And what about strength training, running form drills and coordination?

We do a bunch of stuff.  We do biking sometimes when recovering from injury. We work on motor skills, basic strength, flexibility and speed. We also do running based coordination and drills (see examples in videos below). The Kenyan and the Ethiopian drills are fantastic for runners! You see, running is the purest sport in the world. The talent and the raw material we have in the Indian Track Foundation is made for running. But you have to build up the right structure. Like you see with so many of the top athletes, once the structure is strong, they are like machines. However, this takes immense patience and perseverance.

How often are the kids checked medically and by whom?

Each athlete is pre-checked before entering the ITF home. All tests from HIV to TB to Malaria and other blood tests are undertaken to check if they are carrying any infections or injuries. A full medical check-up is done regularly. We have doctors we can call and we have ties with hospitals here in Ooty, including with a physio.

What about competitions for the kids?

There are some track and field competitions, but not as many as we would like. My athletes are currently preparing for their first competition season. We have three district and state level competitions coming up and a few local track meets that we will be participating in this summer. Our grassroots structure for opportunity and competition isn’t like it is in the states or in other countries. But we are slowly getting there.

For what specific reasons did you choose Ooty as the location for the Indian Track Foundation?

Most importantly, we chose Ooty due to the humble place it is in itself. Other than that, it is just perfect in terms of weather conditions. We have temperatures between 18-25 degrees Celsius most of the year. The sun is out during the day (just the right amount) and it gets a bit chilly at night, but we never have snow. June-August is the rainy season, we sometimes train indoors during that time. Overall, it’s a brilliant place for training. Of course, its altitude (2250- 2300 meters above sea level) was an important factor as well. The kids have to get used the elevation first, as they come from sea level locations. It takes a few days to get used to the altitude. But the effects of the altitude on training and development are so huge that I cannot put them into words. My athletes ran their first local track competition last week and they were so strong, they completely surpassed my expectations. Especially when you start training at a young age in such an environment, the effects are enormous. It’s not very complicated, in order to become an Olympic medallist, one must start at a young age, live a simple life, a happy life and work hard in a conducive environment.

Have you heard of Gjert Ingebrigtsen, father of the three fast Norwegian Ingebrigtsen brothers? He also started training them from a young age…

Yes, of course, I have heard of them. They are brilliant at what they do. But I believe, apart from developing athletes from a young age, our philosophies are different. Coach Brother Colm, the Irish missionary who settled down in Kenya and has produced numerous Olympic and world class athletes is one of my biggest inspirations as a coach. His art of coaching, the way he approaches each athlete’s talents and needs from a young age – he was one of the reasons why I decided to move to Ooty and to start this project.

Are you happy with how your project is going so far? How many of your athletes do you think will be competing in the Olymics in the future?

I had a vison. But the present situation surpasses all of my expectations. I am proud of the fact that we have managed to find these awesome kids and to create this great structure and environment. I don’t think something like this will be attempted by many! As for the Olympics, our targets are 2028 and 2032. I cannot put a number to it, but I believe we will have multiple athletes competing at the Olympic level in the coming years. 2024 is probably too early. But you never know, nothing is impossible….

 

Edited by: Marion Aebi

Wanders miracle – How far can he go?

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Text and pictures: Jürg Wirz – this blog entry is provided by the Swiss magazine FIT for LIFE. If you want to regularly read interesting articles about running and endurance sports, click here

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The career curve of the young Swiss Julien Wanders points steeply upwards. In the miraculous time of 59:13 minutes he outpaced the half marathon in Ras Al Khaimah in February. The 23-year-old from Geneva improved Mo Farah’s European record by 19 seconds. Subsequently, many questions have been raised about where his career could lead. FIT for LIFE tries to answer them.

Can Julien Wanders already call himself the best Swiss runner?

After his two European road running records over 10km in October in Durban (27:32) and in December in Houilles (27:25), Julien Wanders now also made it to the top of the European best list over the half marathon distance. Never before has a Swiss athlete been able to call himself a double European record holder, never before has a Swiss long-distance runner performed at such a high level – not even Markus Ryffel (whose national record of 5000 meters from 1984 is still untouched) or Viktor Röthlin. Nevertheless, Wanders still has to continue running and achieve great successes at international championships in order to be remembered by the general public as the best Swiss long-distance runner of all time. And his performances on the track are not yet at the same level as on the road. Where does Wanders stand internationally with his European record in the half marathon? On position 38 of the eternal world best list. So far, 28 Kenyans, 7 Ethiopians, 1 Eritrean and 1 Bahraini have been faster than Wanders. In the 2019 season’s best he ranks fourth behind one Kenyan and two Ethiopians. The Kenyan Abraham Kiptum was 55 seconds faster than Wanders at his world record in October 2018, the season’s best Stephen Kiprop 31 seconds faster.

How did Mo Farah react when the cheeky Swiss youngster broke a European record for the second time in just a few months?

Mo Farah didn’t make a public statement, but he can’t have been very happy. In recent months, the Briton has primarily been focusing on the marathon in London at the end of April, where he will meet world record holder Eliud Kipchoge. Kipchoge has a clear opinion on the Swiss competitor and says that Wanders is the best example that anyone with talent and unconditional will can reach the top. According to Kipchoge, the East Africans have no genetic advantages.

julien wanders running.coach 2

Does Wanders have what it takes to set the world record?

Observers of the scene agree: If Wanders stays healthy, there’s nothing he can’t achieve. Wanders has dedicated himself completely to running, living in Kenya for the rest of the year and combining the discipline and systematic approach of a European with the African mentality. Wanders focuses all his actions on sporting success, his life consists mainly of training, eating and sleeping. In addition to hard running training, Wanders regularly does coordination, flexibility and strength training. He is advised by the Swiss nutritionist Christof Mannhart on what he should eat and what nutrients are necessary. Wanders uses sophrology as a kind of mental training including meditation exercises and he gets massages several times a week. And above all: With Marco Jäger, he has a trainer who has been looking after him since his youth and knows him very well. There is no apparent reason why Wanders should not one day be one of the best in the world.

What can Wanders be expected to achieve at the supreme distance of a marathon?

A marathon has little to do with mathematics. Nevertheless, there is a mathematical rule of thumb that says: Marathon time = half marathon time times two plus three minutes. For Viktor Röthlin, the formula applied: 2× 62:16 + 3min = 2:07:32; his best time = 2:07:23. Eliud Kipchoge was somewhat faster: 2× 59:25 + 3min = 2:01:50 (best time and WR: 2:01:39). According to this formula, Mo Farah should run 2:02:04 (best time at the moment 2:05:11), Wilson Kipsang 2:00:58 (best time 2:03:13). With Wanders, you would get 2:01:26 hours. But the projections are hypothetical, because a long-term marathon training usually reduces the basic speed a bit. Consequently, the half marathon time would have to be measured if an athlete has already switched to the marathon. But one thing is clear: If you can run the half marathon in 59:13, you also have great potential on the marathon distance.

What are the biggest risks and dangers in Wanders’ career?

As with all talented young runners, it is crucial whether Wanders remains without injury and motivated in the long run. There will be no lack of motivation, because his goal is clear: World elite. The greatest danger for him – and not just since yesterday – is his impatience. Wanders has already completed the training of a world-class marathon runner. The New Zealander Jake Robertson (half marathon best time 59:57), who also lives most of the time in Iten, no longer trains with the Swiss, because he thinks he trains too hard too often. However, coach Marco Jäger is aware of the dangers. He is planning to prepare his protégé well with an eye on the future with the marathon distance. But: Wanders is a guy who never takes it easy when it comes to training; in his training group he is the boss who sets the program as well as the pace.

julien wanders running.coach

On the track, Julien Wanders is not yet where he wants to be. What are the reasons for this?

If you run the 10 kilometres on the road in 27:25 minutes, you should be able to run the 10000 metres on the track in less than 28 minutes. (Wanders’ best time at the moment is 28:06,17.) He himself thinks that so far he has not been able to perform as relaxed and confident on the track as on the road. Probably just one “coup” is needed – and he’ll also become a world-class runner on the track.

What does Wanders’ master plan for the next few years look like?

Until the Olympic Games in 2020, he wants to concentrate on the track, then switch to the marathon. However, he does not rule out being a pacesetter in a major city marathon up to the 30 or 35 kilometer mark in the Olympic year in order to get a feel for the marathon. Despite his current successes, there is little doubt that the marathon will be his best course in the future. The World Championships in Doha at the end of September will be the next concrete goal.

Which distance will he chose to run?

At the moment he’s thinking of starting on both long-distance routes in Doha, which is quite possible from the point of view of the schedule: On the first day, the qualifying runs are over 5000 meters, on the fourth the final, only on the tenth and last day the 10000 meters will take place.

How much does Julien Wanders earn with his current successes?

An athlete is just as reluctant to talk about his pay as an employee is to talk about his salary. In this respect, Julien Wanders is no exception. He doesn’t get the big starting fees yet. One of the leading managers, who has several world-class runners under contract, assumes that he will receive between 3,000 and 5,000 Euros in starting money in a street race, plus the prize money. On the track he probably only gets good money in Zurich and Lausanne, in most places nothing at all, because he lacks the international medals. Together with his sponsors, however, Wanders is already making good financial progress.

Wanders’ achievements are incredible. Is everything going quite right?

Those who observe Wanders’ path believe that he is able to do clean performances, even on this high level. Wanders is as determined and uncompromising in his commitment to running as anyone else, but at the same time he is extremely transparent and discloses all his data. According to his coach Marco Jäger, Julien Wanders was checked for doping around 50 times in 2018. Thus, there is no reason to doubt Wanders’ performance.

 

Translated to English by: Denise Kaufmann

Interview with marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge

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Interview and pictures: Jürg Wirz – this blog entry was provided to us by the Swiss magazine FIT for LIFE.

He ran the marathon faster than anybody else before him – and he believes he can become even faster. FIT for LIFE visited the 34-year-old Kenyan at the training camp in Kaptagat in preparation for the London Marathon.

Eliud Kipchoge, at the latest since your fantastic world record last September in Berlin in 2:01:39 hours you are the biggest marathon runner of all times, unbeaten in the last ten marathons, including the Olympic victory in Rio and 2:00:25 at the Breaking2 attempt in Monza. What has changed in your life since then?

It’s gotten a little difficult. Every new achievement, every record comes with a new responsibility. Many people want something from me: sponsors, media people, but also the fans. I try to meet their wishes as well as possible, but I can’t make myself available for every single one of the sponsor appearances, interviews, autograph requests or selfies. I have to be selective. I hope my fans understand that. In the end they are also only happy if I show a good performance.

Does this increased attention also bring more pressure?

No, I’m not feeling any more pressure than before. I am the same as before Berlin. I am still primarily a runner. I only make other commitments if the training doesn’t suffer from it. During the week I am at the camp in Kaptagat where it is only about focusing on the training and nothing else.

If you think back to the race in Berlin: was this the perfect competition, the optimal result? Your coach Patrick Sang said that you had reached the top of your form at exactly the right time this time.

I can’t and won’t comment on what Patrick says. He is the teacher, I am the student. He dictates the training and I implement it. We never discuss the training, I trust him one hundred percent. He is the best coach I can wish for – and he has been for almost 20 years. But he is also a friend and my life coach. Was it the perfect race? On that day with these conditions: yes.

In Berlin you were already ahead after 25 kilometers without a pacemaker, you ran the second half in 60:33 minutes, 33 seconds faster than the first and you became faster and faster on the last kilometers; would you even have had more reserves?

Let’s not speculate, please. As I said, on that day it was the optimum. But I never said I didn’t believe I could run any faster. However, it depends on so many factors: I have to be in top form again at the decisive moment, the weather has to fit.

Your motivation is still unabated then?

I am convinced that I can continue running at this level for at least two more years, but I have no guarantee. I need to stay healthy and get through training without injuries. There is no lack of motivation; I am still very hungry. I want to go down in history as the best marathon runner, and for future generations I want to be a role model as a runner as well as a person.

You keep stressing this: it is the love of running and challenge that drives you, and the fact that you want to leave a legacy behind. But you have already achieved everything. What are the remaining goals?

I love running, it’s that simple. The Olympic Games next year in Tokyo are still a big goal for me – and yes, I might be able to improve the world record even further. Every day is a challenge, you’re always faced with a new one. And when I have achieved something, I look forward to the next goal. That’s the way to go. That’s my way of thinking, my character, that’s how I work.

On April 28, you will run the London Marathon, which you have already won three times. Was it easy to choose London again, or was there another option up for discussion?

This is the work of the management and the coach. They look at the different possibilities and tell me which one they think is best. After Berlin they thought London was a good choice and I agreed. I am happy to be able to run again in London. Especially since it comes to a meeting with Mo Farah. He is one of the greatest runners of all time. What he has achieved on the track is incredible, and now he is also a top-drawer marathon runner. It will be a real challenge, but that’s what I love. And for the fans it will be great to watch the race.

How has the preparation been going so far? Any changes, maybe new training impulses?

Everything has been going according to plan. And no, no changes. Again, we stuck to the training program that has worked for the last few years. For track training or driving games there may be small adjustments from time to time, but nothing of great importance. Before I start with the three-month training program, I just go jogging for a month and go to the gym three times a week, where I do strength training and aerobics for two hours.

What about nutrition, any supplements?

I still eat normally like any other Kenyan and do not take any supplements. The only exception is sports drinks.

And what about performance tests or other scientific training aids?

I often run with a heart rate monitor because I want to know how my heart behaves under the various strains. But I never analyze it with any specialists, it’s just for me. Before the Breaking2 project, the Nike people measured my oxygen volume and other things – I had to run on a treadmill for the first time in my life – but that was actually more for them than for me. It didn’t affect my training.

Since the Breaking2 project, your shoe, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite, has been a constant source of discussion and speculation, not least because Nike himself claims that the shoe would save four percent of energy. What do you think?

All I can say is that the shoe that I have assisted developing is the best marathon shoe I have ever had. In London, I’m going to run with the Vaporfly 4% Flyknit, the same model as in Berlin. Last year in London the stock material came from a 3D printer. But to be honest, to me, the whole shoe discussion is pretty boring. The biggest advantage is not during running, but in the recovery. It relieves the muscles and allows you to train at a high level more often. Progress does not come from the shoe, but from the head. If the shoe was so much better than others, why am I the only one running the marathon under 2:02 hours?

 

Change of subject. What does a training day look like in the camp in Kaptagat?

I get up at a quarter to six and prepare for the morning training, which usually starts at 06.10 or 06.20, unless we are going to Eldoret for trainings or for a long run outside Kaptagat. When I come back, I take a shower and then have breakfast with my colleagues. Afterwards I rest a bit, either on the campground or I lie down again. Then it’s time for lunch. After lunch I often have a massage. Before the second training begins at 16 o’clock, we rest again. Then once more a shower and waiting for dinner. At 21 o’clock I am in bed. This is what my day looks like. On Tuesday we have track training, on Thursday the long run, which can go up to 40 kilometers, and on Saturday a driving game. On Saturday afternoon we go home and spend the weekend with the family. On Monday morning we go back to the camp.

Let’s talk about the young Swiss Julien Wanders. European record over 10 kilometers and in the half marathon and now even the first official world record holder over five kilometers on the road. Are you following his performance?

Yes, of course. He’s a member of the Nike NN team and has the same manager. I’ve never met him since he’s been one of the pacesetters at the Breaking2 attempt in Monza, but I’ve been following his performance very closely. Running the half marathon in 59:13 is really fantastic, especially for a European. I admire him and I’m happy for him. After the London Marathon I would like to sit down and have a chat with him. For me, Julien Wanders is proof that East Africans have no genetic advantages. If a European decides to concentrate entirely on sport and live in the heights, he can just as well reach the top. It’s just a question of talent, training and the head. Wanders is already a role model for other Europeans. I am sure that many will follow his example.

What is your opinion on the doping problem in Kenya? Are many runners not informed enough about what is allowed and what is not, or why are cases increasing?

I am convinced that most athletes know about the issues around doping. There has been a lot of education in recent years, especially from the Kenyan federation. I think in most cases it’s about someone wanting to make money faster. Which is very regrettable, because of course it also casts a shadow over all clean athletes. Maybe it also has something to do with the African mentality. Unfortunately, cheating is in the DNA of many people.

Do you think that a country like Kenya will continue to produce world-class athletes in the future? In Kenya, too, technical progress can be seen everywhere and living conditions are improving. A life full of hardship as a runner may soon no longer be in demand or necessary in order to achieve something.

I don’t spend much time thinking about this. Progress comes and cannot be withheld. And with it also technological development. It’s true that many children today take a bus to school or are taken there by their parents in a car. I think that in Kenya and other countries there is a need for sports academies where talented young people can go to school, train and prepare for competitions. Where they can train and are mentally formed. Too much is left to chance at the moment. But there will always be young people everywhere who want to achieve something in sports.

A few keywords at the end:

Breaking2?

I ran 2:00:25 under special conditions and I have the official world record. With the experience from the first time the chance would be bigger now to run under two hours. But I never chase two rabbits, only one at a time. Right now, I’m concentrating on London, nothing else.

City marathons?

I think they are fine the way they’re organized for us elite runners right now. There are people who are involved in the organization and administration of the marathons; it’s their job to think about it. My job is to run as fast as possible.

Your children?

I try to raise them like other parents do, even though their father may be a little better known than others. I think that I – and my wife – have succeeded quite well so far. Our children don’t get every single thing they want. They should know that nothing should be taken for granted, and they are to try out different kinds of sports.

Religion?

Religion plays a very important role in my life. It keeps me from doing things that could keep me from my goals. On Sundays I go to church with my family and I pray regularly, even in the mornings before a race.

THE REASONS FOR ELIUD KIPCHOGE’S SUCCESSES

Childhood:

Eliud Kipchoge grew up in a village called Kapsisisywa in Nandi County as the youngest of five children. His father died early. The mother, a teacher, showed the children the right way into life.

Coach:

Eliud was lucky Patrick Sang lived nearby. Sang, once one of the best obstacle runners in the world (and a member of LC Zurich), has been his coach and mentor for 18 years. Sang holds the highest IAAF trainer diploma.

Track running career:

Before switching to marathon at the end of 2012, he was one of the best track runners of his generation. At the age of 18 he beat Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele over 5000 meters at the World Championships in Paris; for nine years he ran the course for less than 13 minutes.

Body concept:

For 16 years at the highest level, Eliud Kipchoge had very few injuries as he has been taking good care of his body: Strength training in the gym and aerobics at the beginning of a preparation, then hill runs for strength and always incorporating stretching and massages.

Problem solving:

He is also able to master challenges during a race: the high temperatures at last year’s London Marathon, the rain in Berlin in 2017 or 2015 also in Berlin when he won despite the insoles having slipped out of his shoes.

Peace of mind:

His calm and serene nature proves to be ideal in extremely emotional high-performance sports. Those who remain calm can think more clearly, concentrate better and prepare for the challenges of a race.

Humbleness:

Despite his success, Eliud Kipchoge has remained very modest. In the camp he participates like everyone else in the cleaning work and he lives in a simple single-family house; his children should not grow up differently than others.

Planning:

The right planning is key to success. As soon as the next marathon has been determined together with the management, he sits together with the coach and gets informed about the rough plans, starting from the day of the race.

Eagerness to learn:

He’s a curious man by nature. He reads many motivation and business books. He is never satisfied with what he has achieved. As an athlete and also as a person, he always wants to learn new things, become even better and always looks to the future.

Training partners:

He has excellent training partners at his side, including Geoffrey Kamworor (multiple Half Marathon and Cross-Country World Champion), Stephen Kiprotich (Olympic Marathon Champion 2012 and World Champion 2013) and Abel Kirui (double Marathon World Champion).

Training:

As far as training is concerned, he trusts his coach Patrick Sang one hundred percent, whom he calls his coach for both training and life. Training programs are not subject to argument: Sang is the teacher, Kipchoge the student.

Self-confidence:

Over the years, especially since the 2:00:25 hours of the 2017 Breaking2 trial in Monza, he has built up an unshakeable self-confidence. He knows, no matter what happens in the race, he’s ready. He has been undefeated for ten races.