Interview with Julien Wanders

10. July 2018

Julien Wanders is the high flyer in the European long-distance scene. The 22-year-old Genevan, who lives and trains in Kenya for much of the year, was the top European in the Half Marathon World Championships at the end of March where he achieved a fantastic 8th place finish! He is currently in St. Moritz preparing for the European Athletics Championships in Berlin, where he will compete in the 5000 m and 10,000 m distances.

After the «crash» at the Athletissima, you underwent a huge transformation and went on to win numerous city runs, break Swiss records, and dazzle at the World Championships. What has led you to now be able to realise your full potential?

After Athletissima, things were tough for me, but that was precisely why I asked myself the question "what's wrong?", and I realised that the problem wasn't physical, it was mental. I worked on that and told myself: there is no point putting so much pressure on myself for races, I need to learn how to have fun again. Really, the goal is to have fun running, and I've really found that gain in the city races. After that, my road results were very good and that boosted by confidence. I think that was the key, not to get worked up and just run the way I do, without any pressure.

You are currently preparing for the European Championships in the heights of the Engadine. What does your everyday training look like?

As it's track season right now, we do a few more track sessions in summer. A typical day would look like this: get up at 6am and first training at 6:30, either a 50 minute to one hour jog or a session on the track or on the road. Then it's time for breakfast, rest, eating and in the afternoon you're off again at 3:30 or 4pm for a session, often a strength session at the gym combined with a max 40 minute jog.


Kenya has become your second home. You also benefit from the mountain air there among other things. What other factors account for the fact that you always return there to prepare for your running goals?

Kenya for me is a no brainer, it's the perfect environment to make progress and reach my goals. I have outstanding training groups with a crazy level, and that's what makes me push my limits every day. On top of that, there is the altitude and hilly terrain, which are very demanding on the muscles and which also make me improve enormously. And outside of the training, the life suits me, it's stress-free. That's why I decided to train there most of the year.

You run with an enviable lightness on the track or asphalt. What three tips should an amateur runner heed to achieve a style more similar to yours?

Even though I am a long-distance runner, along with my coach we don't ignore the details, that is to say dynamic training. We do a lot of footwork to keep this dynamism, so it really is important. And a light stride also needs work, and this is the contradictory part, with lots of kilometres; you learn to be more and more relaxed and find a more natural stride by covering lots of kilometres and with a lot of training. The more you train, the more you will find your own stride. As a final tip, I would say don't forget speed work, even for a marathon runner, I think you need to work on speed because that will also change your stride a bit. When you run long distance, you tend to have a slightly heavier stride and therefore speed work gives you back that lightness, even when you go more slowly.


Do you have a secret tip you would be willing to share with us?

For me, the secret (and I've said this many times) is endurance. Even on middle distances, you need a tremendous amount of endurance and that's where your performances come from. People would say that I trained almost like a marathon runner, which isn’t completely wrong, and that's where I think I managed to perform this winter and lately. On a dietary level, I would say eat as simply as possible, don't try and don't drive yourself crazy calculating quantities. Eat when you are hungry and treat yourself from time to time, it doesn't hurt.

Foto: ZVG