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SAYSKY Athlete Simon Stützel is away on training camp in Iten, Kenya. He'll be taking over the SAYSKY Instagram stories from Jan 30 - Feb 1, and we highly suggest that you tune in. This is not only because Iten is practically the holy mekka of running training camps, but also because Simon's a cool and knowledgable guy to follow.
The city of Iten is a dream destination for runners with its iconic and very forgiving, red dusty roads, high altitudes, warm temperatures and hundreds of speedy Kenyans taking off every morning at sunrise.
Simon has travelled here to catch up with his coach and lay the foundation for an ambitious 2019 season. He's a very quick guy with loads of impressive PBs to his name, but he has also been involved in a serious accident, which almost killed him.
Read about this, his recovery and much more in the interview below.
Can you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit more about when and why your passion for running started?
I've always loved sports, but I played tennis and soccer until I was 16. When I had to work the long jump pit at a school competition and our 1000m runner got injured, I saw my chance to go home early. I replaced him in that race and I ran 2:47 for the 1000m. Many people told me that I was already much better compared to my limited success in tennis and soccer. Hence, I started to run 3-5 times a week and really started competitive running, when I went to the US for my masters. This put me on a completely different level. Since then, I’ve met more friends by the day and love the sport a little more every day, as it brings me all over the world and brought the best people in my life.
You are in Iten, Kenya, at the moment on training camp. Can you tell us a little bit more about why you have chosen this place?
My main reason is to visit my coach Hugo van den Broek, who lives in Iten and who has been coaching me online for the last two years. It was so great to finally see him face to face after we have been communicating on a daily basis.
You were involved in quite a brutal accident last year. How did you manage to come back from that? And how has the recovery been since then?
I have been pretty unfortunate for the last 1.5 years. In September of 2017, I broke my right foot and I couldn’t run for seven months. Although the accident with the bike was life threatening (I had to be helicoptered to the hospital), it was much better in the end compared to those seven months. Running really taught me how to never give up and do things other people don’t regard as possible. After the bike accident I was in the hospital for three days, and then I traveled to Portugal (a longtime planned vacation). I had a lot of pain, but I knew I could endure and it was absolutely the right decision to go. Only three months after that accident, I won my home town marathon in Karlsruhe for the fourth time in a row on a very windy day in 2:24h (second half under 70:00m). The last 1.5 years and the setbacks have taught me so much about life and how to keep a positive mindset. After the injury I became a lot more relaxed as I see everything after that as a present.
What are your race plans and goals for the upcoming season?
I want to improve my half-marathon PB (65:09) and marathon PB (2:17:51) and finish the following two marathons (after I didn’t make the start line for the last two years). I’m looking at the German championships in the HM (Freiburg) and the Marathon (Düsseldorf) and perhaps also Berlin Marathon, which has always been a dream of mine.
Fellow SAYSKY athlete Tom Gröschel is also in Iten and you're training for the same events, but do you see yourselves as competitors or teammates when you are on the starting line?
We’ve known each other ever since a training camp in Flagstaff, AZ where we roomed together. I feel that we are teammates and support each other. Of course, come race day, we will be fierce competitors, as we both love to compete hard. After the race we will celebrate as teammates again.
What are your biggest goals for the future?
I want to run sub 64:00 on the half marathon distance and sub 2:15 for the marathon and qualify for the European championships. I also always love to run fast on a daily basis and keep this going until I’m at least 60 (sub 40:00).
Do you have any obstacles or downsides connected with training as much as you do and being away on training camps and races during the year? And what do you see as the benefits?
I love being on training camps in the winter time, as I get depressed with the lack of sunlight in central Europe. So running is a great excuse to escape that climate. In the summer time, I don’t go on training camps, because I strongly believe Karlsruhe is the best place to train in the world.
Any fun facts we should know about you?
I work for Eurosports and commentate many of my competitors and friends. Often times I really need to bite my lips, not to tell any stories that are too crazy for TV and I’ve collected many crazy stories in the last decade.
If you're curious about those stories, then you'd have to talk to Simon yourself. We'll stop it right here.
Keep up with Simon here: Strava and Instagram
In a world where everything is increasingly mechanic and digital, we forget to stop and appreciate the human element in keeping the world running. Human Driven is a reminder of what we can accomplish by our own willpower and that nothing can or should stop us from running.
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