"Julien Wanders is going to break the Swiss marathon record, but he shouldn't be looking for it"

“Julien Wanders is going to break the Swiss marathon record, but he shouldn’t be looking for it”

At the end of the line this Monday morning, Stéphane Schweickhardt begins by apologizing for calling back so late. He does not have a cell phone: the Sunday solicitations of the Weather were addressed to her daughter’s number. “You really went looking for the old crabs, too…”

It is that the “old crab” had all its legitimacy to comment on the first marathon of Julien Wanders, this Sunday in Paris. In the same city, in 1999, and for one of his “two or three” incursions over the distance, the Valaisan had set a time of 2h13’34, which no athlete from French-speaking Switzerland (by birth*) had surpassed in twenty-three years.

The article in question: Julien Wanders, birth of a marathon runner

His very unofficial record, the now sixty-something is happy to have seen it fall, Wanders having completed his 42.195 kilometers in 2h11’52. On the other hand, he is saddened to have seen his successor suffer from gastric problems and finish far from his expectations, set between 2:07 and 2:10. The “old crab” would not especially like to pass for “a giver of lessons”. But he has things to say.

Beware of disappointments

“Julien, I am his greatest admirer, begins our interlocutor. What he does is extraordinary. Going to live in Africa to give yourself the means to progress in contact with the best, it commands respect. He is also fabulous by his temperament! He is from this generation, like the Swiss football team, which does not over-respect anything or anyone and he is right.

His place in national running history? “On the road, he is the best Swiss of all time, slice Stéphane Schweickhardt. Markus Ryffel, the others, me, we were light years away from what he is capable of. Of course, Viktor Röthlin was European marathon champion and Tadesse Abraham holds the national record for the distance, but all of that is well within Julien’s reach. No, really, he is without equal.

But… there is a “but” in the eyes of someone who claims to have covered 200,000 kilometers in running (and who today runs at the rate of four weekly runs). Aware of his incredible potential, Julien Wanders only sets very high goals. “Inevitably, he approaches each race with a lot of pressure, and in the end, he is regularly disappointed. It’s not good to be disappointed often. The risk is to lock yourself into a negative spiral.

The importance of “rewarding” races

There is one piece of advice he would like to give her: participate in “rewarding” races to heal both her confidence and her popularity. “When I look at my career in the rear view mirror, I regret not having run Morat-Fribourg more often, he notes. A sidewalk, for me, was a climb, so this classic with a lot of elevation was not ideal. But it’s in these kinds of events that a runner makes an impact on people. How long has it been since a Swiss won Morat-Fribourg? [Avant Tadesse Abraham, vainqueur en 2018 et 2016, c’était… lui, Stéphane Schweickhardt, en 1998.] Julien could do it. That would be great.”

In the same vein, the Valaisan believes that Wanders should keep some space in his program for the distances he masters. “At this stage, he could already have won the European Half Marathon Championships three or four times. These medals are important! They allow you to be calmer, more serene when tackling greater challenges. We must not give up the trials that we can win.”

The former rider, who has always worked 100% in a fiduciary, knows well the difficulty of building a balanced career. He knew he was “physically made for the marathon”, but “the head wanted to run often in competition”, which the distance does not allow, so he favored the 3000 or 5000 meters for their nervousness and the possibility of chaining. “And it was on half-marathon or 20 kilometers that I obtained my best results, he says. Halfway between what my body could and what my mind wanted…”

“To speak is to expose oneself”

Stéphane Schweickhardt also remembers having achieved the minimum necessary for participation in the Olympic Games over 10,000 meters “two or three times” in his career. “But never the year when it mattered,” he laments. Why? “When the moment came when it was necessary to respond, I tended to add to the training. To do too much. It was silly, because when I did just the right thing, it went well. But I needed to do more to reassure myself and it was counterproductive, but that, in the heat of the moment, I did not realize it.

This belated self-criticism echoes the immense volume of training that Julien Wanders cherishes. “On half-marathon, his European record is 59’13. That’s enough. He should just keep it up and reap the rewards of his labor.” For Stéphane Schweickhardt, the Genevan will “beat the Swiss marathon record, that’s for sure”, but he “must not look for it: he will come alone”. Announce a goal of 2h07 for his first attempt on the distance? Not a good idea, he says. “To speak is to expose oneself more than one already is, underlines the 61-year-old Valaisan. Julien only needs to run, the lap times and the medals are going to be good.”

Him, he would like “to be still 20 years old”, he admits with a bit of nostalgia. E he could “discuss running all day” but he will still have to hang up. He repeats it once again: “Julien Wanders, I am his biggest fan. I almost have tears in my eyes talking about it. I would love for him to achieve all of his goals. I think he just needs a little patience…“Old crab” word.

* Originally from Eritrea, Tadesse Abraham holds the Swiss record in 2h06’40, while Tesfaye Eticha, born in Ethiopia, once ran in 2h10’05. The two men, naturalized, are established in the canton of Geneva.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.