Interview with Susanne Rüegger

6. June 2018

Susanne Rüegger will represent Switzerland for the first time this year by actively taking part in a major event. The qualified kinesiologist and sports teacher will complete the ambitious marathon team on 12 August.

At the age of 34, you will be donning the national kit for the very first time. With what feelings and expectations are you travelling to Berlin? 

..Actually, I don’t feel so old at all.  
I am really delighted that I will be part of the marathon team where I will be allowed to represent Switzerland. A dream has come true for me. I fought a long time for this. I was repeatedly thwarted by various accidents and injuries. It’s brilliant that it has finally worked out. It goes without saying that I don’t just want to take part, but also show that this is where I belong. It would be great if I could run a good marathon time and also contribute to the team score. 

You don’t yet have so much experience running marathons. How are you preparing for this great challenge, and how are you coping with the pressure and expectations? 

That’s true, compared to the other marathon runners, I only have a little experience with my 5 marathons to date. I was never previously able to see through my marathon preparation properly. It would make me happy if it worked out this time round. My focus is very much on 12 August. I have made some adjustments in order to prepare myself as well as possible for the European Championships. These include 2 long stays in the Engadine, which was possible thanks to my reduced workload, my sponsors, and super replacements. My environment is also backing me wholeheartedly on my way to the European Championships. I am getting great help from my trainer and her husband in particular, not to mention my club (Zug Athletics Club) who are also giving me very generous support.

I still don’t feel under pressure, but that is no doubt yet to come. I am probably putting myself under the most pressure. At the end of the day, I just want to give it my best and hope that my legs will carry me quickly to the finish.

Several times over the past 12 months you were thwarted by injuries. What have you learnt from this time? What adjustments have you made to your everyday training?

Yes, until now I have not been spared injuries and accidents and needed to repeatedly take long periods of time off running training. Fortunately, I do a lot of multi-sports so was able to keep myself fit with biking, swimming, aqua-fit and other types of sports during these times. Nevertheless, nothing can replace running: a marathon runner needs to be able to run. 

I have learnt to listen much more to my body and my feelings. Most of the time I pretty much know when something is wrong. Responding accordingly and putting the brakes on was, and still is, not all that easy. But here it’s a case of: «less is more». It is better to take a break for one or two days or do alternative training than to push through with a training unit when you are in pain or fatigued. This simply does not achieve anything at all. Even after a hard day at work it sometimes makes more sense to just do a light training unit instead of demanding yet more from your body or even totally overdoing it. 

Regeneration is also a decisive factor. Above all, this includes getting enough sleep, drinking enough fluids, and eating a balanced diet.

I am fortunate that I can increase or decrease my training and decide when something is too much. It is crucial for me to train in a way that it is right for me. I also believe you shouldn’t compare yourself with others. Each athlete is different and requires their own personalised preparation. I think it’s important to train with conviction – then it will turn out well. 

In your eyes, what are the most important factors that lead to success?

To succeed, a strong will, determination, healthy ambition, a certain relaxed attitude, some talent, and in my case, a great deal of perseverance, certainly help. However, I find the most important thing is to enjoy the sport. Only those who are fully dedicated to practising their sport will succeed. 

A great environment, an understanding trainer, and good working conditions are also key to success. Finally, there are a lot of small puzzle pieces that need to fit together to ensure day X will be the perfect day. You should never give up, even when it gets hard or strenuous, or you momentarily can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. In times like these, it is important to always make the best of the situation and to not get demoralised. There is always a way and there is always something that can be improved upon. This also makes it exciting. 

Do you have a secret tip you would be willing to share with us? A training, nutrition, or recovery tip, for example.

My training tip: always listen to your body and don’t ignore your feelings. Deliberately increase and decrease or even omit a training unit (without having a bad conscience!). Sometimes it makes more sense to give your body rest. It will thank you during the next training unit. 

My nutrition tip: nutrition plays a crucial role. The most important thing is to drink enough fluids to accelerate the regeneration process. I don’t believe, however, that you need super foods. I, personally, need to eat a seasonal, balanced, healthy and, above all, enjoyable diet. I also allow myself to eat something sweet now and again and a good glass of wine also goes well with a fine meal.

My recovery tip: get enough sleep and add some variety - unwind and give yourself a mental break away from it all. This helps to tank up fresh energy. If the weather permits, I go stand up padding, for example, where I paddle out on the lake, lie down and simply do nothing for a while. ??

Foto: ZVG