What TV series changed your life

Series "My Sport and I" (1) : How running changed my life

In our new summer series “My Sport and I”, athletes report very personally about what their sport means to them. To start with, the former long-distance runner Jan Fitschen talks about his love for running. The now 42-year-old was German champion several times over various distances during his active career. In 2006 he surprisingly won the European title over 10,000 meters in Gothenburg.

Running is easy. If you leave out all the trimmings, the equipment, the technology, then running is what defines us as people. That's my belief. And now, after doing competitive sport, I want to share the enthusiasm that is in me with others. Because without sport, my life would have been completely different. Back then someone gave me the chance, now I want to give others this chance.

I started running with the "AOK Trimm Trot". It was a classic running meeting where you met mom, dad and the neighbors and then went running together. I grew up near Osnabrück and first played football and badminton there. There weren't really any real sports grenades in my family. That's why I'm still super grateful for the offer.

In the beginning it was just a bit of walking around. But then it got more and more and I realized that I can do it very well. After two or three years I went to a bigger club. I was very lucky that my trainer Wolfgang Riesinger used to be a long-distance runner himself and also took part in the Olympic Games. Of course, he saw right away: You don't make an all-rounder out of the fitschen, the small, thin shirt, you have to let him run, he can do that.

During my studies I went to the club in Wattenscheid. In terms of effort, it was actually already high-performance sport back then. But I only realized that I could become a professional when I became European champion. Even if you become German champion ten times, you will only earn pocket money with it. That was really that one day, that one moment that made it all possible. That was never part of the plan, it just happened.

You are not allowed to do athletics if you think you can make money there. If you've ever done competitive sport, you just know: It's awesome! Even if you weren't a German or an Olympic champion. All my friends from before didn't earn any money with it, but they still rave about training runs on some North Sea islands and say that it was the best time ever.

However, the European title completely changed my life. The experience burned itself so firmly because I would never have thought it possible. I was often the German champion, but internationally it was always said: “We don't need to talk about it, Fitschen can't do that.” I got on my head so often - when it did work, I was completely overwhelmed.

I had put a lot of effort into preparing for the EM 2006 in Gothenburg. I often had to pay for the training camp out of my own pocket. I was not in the association's top promotion because nobody expected a medal. And when you go to Arizona for altitude training for 2500 euros, you can no longer rent a huge hotel at the next training camp, but have to share a holiday apartment with friends and cook there yourself. You invest time and money, postpone your studies, do and do and you know exactly: a cold, an injury - and everything is for the cat again. I've had that problem often enough.

Before the race, I knew that I could sprint well, but that I wouldn't be able to drive at a very high pace for very long at that level. But in a championship there are different laws, there are no pacemakers and therefore often random hits. But that it all worked out that way - unbelievable. After almost 10,000 meters on the home straight, I couldn't believe it. I thought this is a dream, it doesn't exist, someone is kidding you here!

National anthem in underpants

The award ceremony was not until the next day. First I jumped around on the bed with my roommate in underpants and practiced the national anthem. First and foremost, you're doing sports for yourself because you just want to know where you end up with it. But how much feedback you get from other people afterwards, how many you gave a great day because they were able to cheer - that's unbelievable. You think: Actually, you just ran around in circles. For me it was of course something special - but also for a lot of others.

After such a title, the whole perception changes completely. You have completely different options. People suddenly know you and listen to you. This is still the case now, almost 15 years later. In the meantime I think it's really great that your own word has weight and that you can move something, for example with my campaign “Running is easy”.

With this I would like to give back to the sport what it gave me. The goal is 10,000 x 10,000: In the coming years I want to get 10,000 newcomers to run 10,000 meters at a time. I want more people to feel the fun of running. And if a success like my European Championship title helps you to convey what is important to you - then that's just awesome!

Recorded by Leonard Brandbeck.

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