Interview with Markus Ryffel
Markus Ryffel shaped the athletics scene during the 1980s. He won medals in the Olympic Games, as well as the World and European Championships. He also won the Grand Prix of Bern, the Murtenlauf, and the Greifenseelauf several times, among others. Once his sports career ended, Markus Ryffel established sports shops, running courses, and active holidays, not to mention aqua fitness and Nordic walking sports. He has made a lasting impact on the sports scene and the running scene in particular in Switzerland.
32 years ago you celebrated your biggest sporting success. In your eyes, what were the keys to success? And what are the three most important tips that you would like to give to athletes?
Running has always been my passion. My training was therefore always associated with love and joy. The competitions also really motivated and inspired me. Competing against others, surpassing yourself, and vying to cross the finish line first – that is pure adrenaline.
Success, however, comes from piecing together many individual mosaic pieces. Practising your sport with joy and enjoying what you do are definitely important corner stones. Endurance sports also involves taking your time and gradually developing your stamina until you are prepared for the first successes. Your physical condition, an optimum private and professional environment, and also a little bit of luck now and again play a key role.
According to your statement, it was primarily your mind that helped you to win the Los Angeles race back then. What ran through your head during the race? How did you respond to the negative thoughts that popped up?
In a competition it is always hard, sooner or later. You need to specifically prepare for these hard moments by visualising and feeling them. This helps to stop the "ifs & buts" from dogging your steps. It is not easy to stay focused and blank out all other thoughts and thus takes practice (Los Angeles was my third Olympic Games). Eventually you reach a certain point where you can rise above yourself.
What would you do differently if you could turn back time? (in relation to training, recovery, and planning)
Fortunately, we cannot turn back the wheel of time. In hindsight, there are always things that you would perhaps do the other way around. But what would be the point in that? I am very happy with the way my career has progressed and I am also very grateful.
You are allowed to revel in the past or the future. But life happens exactly then when you are busy making plans.After your active career, you remained in the sports scene where you promoted mass sports. What are your top (three) most important tips, firstly for young people, secondly for working amateur athletes, and thirdly for all older people?
The training for young people should be as diverse as possible and they should give themselves time to develop. Working people need good planning to ensure their profession, family, and sports are in balance. When there is a lack of time, it is advisable to shorten the training (perhaps intensify it in return) or even omit it altogether, because rest is also training. Exercise and nutrition are also important in order to stay healthy into old age. It is advisable to do various types of endurance sports for the specific preventive effect against "plague no. 1: cardiovascular complaints". For " plague no. 2: back and lower back complaints", the plan should include strength exercises 2-3 times a week, which will thus lay the foundation for staying 40 for 20 years or 20 for 40 years.
The following applies to all: step by step! It is not uncommon for people to place very high demands on themselves because they want to achieve a lot as quickly as possible. They should instead think long-term and improve slowly but steadily. It is equally important to enjoy moments where the head and body are not reminded of the sport.
You are known for repeatedly realising new ideas. For example, you and your brother Urs not only made aqua fitness and Nordic walking socially acceptable in Switzerland, but you initiated the first pure walking event, and launched a canton duel at the Greifensee run (2016: Lucerne / Zurich). Your most recent idea is the «Markus Ryffel’s Relay». Can you tell us more about this?
As a 21-person relay, the Markus Ryffel's Relay will attempt to break the existing Swiss record or the half marathon world record at the Greifensee run. On 17 September, 21 runners will be sent off on the route before the rest of the pack. Will the records be pulverized? The half-marathon world record time lies at 58:23 / 2:46 per kilometre (Zersenay Tadese, Lisbon 2010), the Swiss record at 60:42 / 2:53 per kilometre (Tadesse Abraham, Barcelona 2015). In 2015, the world record was missed by a mere 10 seconds.
This is how we will do it: We are looking for runners who can run one kilometre under 3 minutes, better still, under 2:55 minutes. Out of all of the applications, FIT for LIFE and Markus Ryffel's will put together two teams who will then attempt to break the records. Each relay member runs one kilometre and then passes the baton to the next runner. The relay will be sent into the race five minutes before the elite block. We will organise the transport of the relay runners.
More information on the «Markus Ryffel’s Relay».
Many thanks to Markus Ryffel for the interesting answers.
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