Zurich Marathon

After the indoor season and the Swiss 10k road running championships my cameras got a little rusty, but where should I shoot? Sure there were events on every weekend, but… spring 2016 isn’t really that inviting. As no must-events were around, I preferred to let my gear rust.

Then came the Zurich Marathon. This event is big. So I decided to go. The race promised to be interesting. Three Swiss runners tried to qualify for the Olympics: Adrian Lehmann who was in great shape according to his test races, Julien Lyon whom I already met when he won the 10k Nationals and who ran his first marathon, and Michael Ott.

Adrian Lehmann, Michael Ott shortly after the start

Adrian wanted the qualification badly. He tried everything. Turned professional, changed his entire life, went to Kenya, brought two pacemakers with him from Kenya.

However, not only the Swiss runners were of interest. Quite a lot of superbe African runners lined up. Moreover, there was the favourite: Yuki Kawauchi from Japan who is a superstar at home. In the women’s race there were Yoshiko Sakamoto, and the German Katharina Heinig who aimed at the Olympic Standard too.

Yuki Kawauchi, Edwin Kiprop Korir
Yuki Kawauchi, Edwin Kiprop Korir

Very shortly after the start, the weather forecast proved terribly wrong. First, it started to rain… then hail… then snow. Conditions became extremely ugly. If you never ran in such conditions: the hail hurts. The snowflakes stay on your skin and melt. Your system cools down and you start freezing. Freezing costs energy. Loss of energy is detrimental to Marathon performance. There is nothing you can do against it.

Yoshiko Sakamoto
Yoshiko Sakamoto

Well, top athletes are top because they stay focused even in bad conditions. Even Adrian’s pacemakers who had never seen snow in their life before continued fighting. However, determination is one thing, the physics behind the wet and super cold conditions another. The lost energy quickly makes you even freeze more.

Adrian Lehmann, Julien Lyon
Adrian Lehmann, Julien Lyon

Way too early, Adrian’s pacemakers had to give up. They weren’t to blame. One was even taken to hospital with hypothermia. Adrian lost contact to Julien who adapted to the conditions a bit better. However, both did not maintain their pace at the desired level.

What about the international athletes? Only ONE African made it to the finish line, second ranked Abere Belay from Ethiopia.

Abere Belay (ETH) belegt den zweiten Platz beim Zürich Marathon 2016
Abere Belay (ETH) belegt den zweiten Platz beim Zürich Marathon 2016

The glorious winner was Kawauchi. This guy is iron tough. He ran the entire race at the front, from the start to the finish line.


Impressive how Kawauchi sprinted down the finsh straight. Like an 800m runner he crossed the line and stopped for the photographers, breathing heavily.

Alexanderplatz Berlin Fernsehturm Mond
Yuki Kawauchi Zurich Marathon 2016
Yuki Kawauchi siegt beim Zürich Marathon 2016
Yuki Kawauchi, Zürich Marathon 2016

So what about the young Swiss runners? Julien did a great job. A third rank and 2:16 in his first marathon under these conditions are simply super. Great to see his joy.

Julien Lyon wird Dritter beim Zürich Marathon 2016
Julien Lyon wird Dritter beim Zürich Marathon 2016

And then the drama started. Everyone was waiting for Adrian. Time was running adn running and everyone knew, he’d be utterly disappointed. A young runner did everything right to fulfil his dream, but the very two hours of the event destroyed his hopes. Face swollen, his look empty he came down the long finish straight. What a bitter moment.

Adrian Lehmann wird Vierter beim Zürich Marathon 2016
Adrian Lehmann, fourth at the Zürich Marathon 2016

So how did the Women’s competition end? All the favourites had to give up. The winner was the toughest in the field, Daniela Aeschbacher. She said she couldn’t believe it. She just had to run back to Zurich, despite of the bad conditions, because her family was waiting. Suddenly a bike appeared besides her with the sign “first woman”. And she was winner of the Zurich Marathon. Sometimes life writes really nice stories.

Daniela Aeschbacher wins the Zurich Marathon 2016

Naturally, joy was great. Even minutes after the finish, she could not believe it. But all photographers were hunting her. Yes, it was true.