For someone who has battled with their fair share of injuries and illnesses, Switzerland’s Viktor Röthlin has an impressive knack of still coming out on top. The proud holder of a silver medal from the 2006 European Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, Röthlin has since gone on to win the Tokyo Marathon with a new Swiss record of 2:07:23 and claim sixth place at the Beijing Olympics. Keeping true to his own motto "If you can dream it – you can do it", this self-coached sportsman looks within for motivation.
A sluggish start
Since the age of ten, when Viktor Röthlin first saw his compatriot Markus Ryffel win silver in the 5,000m at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, he knew he wanted to be a long-distance runner. It was an ambition not shared by his parents, however, with whom he had to strike a deal to return good school grades in order to pursue his running vocation. A family without his shared enthusiasm or belief in running proved to be quite a challenge, but it was just the first of many that Röthlin would overcome.
The rather tall order to be a proficient all-rounder at school eventually paid dividends and, now with both a solid academic and running career to his credit, Röthlin counts among the world’s most respected marathon runners. His mum and dad surely are among his biggest fans.
Realising the dream
Over the years, Röthlin has acquired a reputation for dreaming his finishing place prior to the big races in which he competes, even going so far as to putting his dreamed position in an envelope to open in front of journalists after a race. His belief that "if you can dream it – you can do it" is a theory that can hardly be knocked, given his recent successes.
It is this kind of optimism that has taken Röthlin to silver medal success at the European Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden (2006), a bronze at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan, a Swiss record-breaking win at the Tokyo Marathon in 2008 and sixth position at the Beijing Olympics. But of course, it’s not just about the mental grounding. Even with his physical approach, Röthlin showed extreme ambition in his preparation for Beijing, having taken to regular training periods in Kenya alongside two-time London Marathon winner Martin Lel, to acclimatise to the different altitude, oppressive heat and humidity.
Run-no matter what
A highly committed athlete, Röthlin puts in a physically demanding training workload back home of between 200 and 230km per week, come rain or shine. Of course, being Swiss, he is accustomed to tough winters and (while not being irresponsible and overly hard on his lungs) rarely allows these to stop him. "Easy runs you can enjoy outside, especially if there is fresh snow coming down. It’s one of the greatest highlights to be the first one on the path, all untrodden except for some wild animal tracks," he says, and adds that onion-like layering of your clothes when running in winter, is key to feeling comfortable.
For all this commitment, his achievements have also been marred by some health issues, however. Most recently, he has suffered a double pulmonary embolism and has had to pull out of the London Marathon (April 2009) as a result. A month’s ordered bed rest can only mean one thing for a perpetual optimist such as Röthlin. More dreaming – and we all know where that gets him.