Run Hertha!

In 2006, long-distance runner Jan Fitschen became a European champion in the 10,000 metres – that’s about the same distance that Hertha’s footballers cover in a game. In an interview with ‘Be Healthy. Be Hertha’, Jan Fitschen reveals his tips for how anyone can become a runner. 


[Translate to English:] Jan Fitschen trainiert mit einem Lauftreff.

How did you get started with running?

I tried out several sports as a kid, including football, and at some point I realised that I was a much better runner without the ball. When I was around 12, 13 years old, I went to an AOK running club which was called ‘Off into nature’ at the time. That’s where it all started. In the beginning, I was training maybe once a week. During the annual track-and-field competition at school, it became apparent that I was a lot better at running 1,000 metres than I was 100 metres. That’s when I realised: ‘Wow, you’re training twice a day now.’ After that I just kept running, became a German champion several times and ended up as a European champion – the highlight of my career. 

Is football also a running sport for you?

Of course. I played football myself when I was younger, and always benefitted from it. I often won my races because I was strong in the final sprint. The sprints and quick reactions that you practice at football definitely helped me. A player that runs nearly 10 kilometres in a 90-minute game isn’t running particularly fast, but he does need a certain level of endurance. You need to have the strength to do so. 

Should professional footballers also run a 10K every now and then?

Absolutely. If you have good endurance, then it adds another element to your game. Running is also the best way to clear your head and to leave that everyday stress behind. It’s one of the few moments in a day where you don’t have your phone in your hands. 

So what you’re saying is that running is beneficial for everyone? 

Yes. There are of course exceptions due to medical reasons, but 99 percent of people can and should go for runs. 

[Translate to English:] Ein Lauftreff kann auch in der Stadt stattfinden. Hier läuft Jan Fitschen mit seinem Lauftreff.

Is it also possible to do so in a big city like Berlin?

Of course, it’s also possible in Berlin. In fact, it’s better than in several other big cities, since there are so many parks here. You will have to wait at a red light every now and then, but you can go for a run anywhere in Berlin, which is great. Additionally, there are plenty of running groups and meet-ups to join – some of them are very youthful and committed.  

There are some people who will say ‘Oh, running isn’t for me.’ What do you say to that?

Running can definitely be something for everyone, as long as you get off to a good start. You have to set a goal that you want to reach within eight weeks and start working towards it with a proper training plan. I’m convinced that everyone can become a runner, as long as you keep a few basic rules in mind and get a few tips along the way. The most important thing to keep in mind right away is to start off slow; otherwise, you’ll be out of breath after four minutes. That’s the most important thing for beginner runners. From there, you’ll be able to make good progress early on.  

You offer a programme called ‘Running is easy’. How did you get started with that?

I want to show people that running really is easy. You need running shoes – that’s about it. You can run everywhere. I’ve realised that I really enjoy teaching people that. I help them get started with running and they’re so happy, because running is just plain good for you. As a beginner, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can improve. I automatically stepped into the role of coach, because people always ask me for running tips. 

[Translate to English:] Laufen ist einfach: Man braucht nur ein Paar Laufschuhe.

You help train runners to complete a 10K as part of the 10,000 x 10,000 project with AOK Nordost. Why did you choose that distance?

We had to decide which distance to focus on and, after all, I am a European champion in the 10K. You can be proud of yourself for completing a 5K run, but you’ll be really proud after 10 kilometres. Together with AOK Nordost, my goal is to now help 10,000 runners complete a 10K. 

How does your programme introduce people to long-distance running? 

The most important thing at the start is to run really, really slowly. We measure where people are at by challenging them to try and run for as long as possible. We then separate the runners into two groups. If you are only able to run for less than 20 minutes, then you’re part of the beginners. The more advanced runners are those who can keep going for more than 20 minutes. However, many people are surprised at just how long they are able to run for. Anyone who has the desire to start running can sign up for free. You’ll be given training plans and videos, and are also able to talk with other participants via live chats. 

[Translate to English:]

Du überlegst mit dem Laufen anzufangen und suchst Lauftreffs oder ein auf dich abgestimmtes Coaching? Mit dem Projekt 10.000 x 10.000 und Jan Fitschens "Laufen ist einfach"-Trainingsplänen, schaffst auch du die 10 Kilometer.