Jonas Rice chasing Marcus Revell’s old record, reflects on dream time and moves to the US for it
The Swiss track runner has made a huge leap in the sport in recent months. As a bonus, the 28-year-old was the only Swiss to earn a spot in the top-tier “athletics club” in Colorado.
It’s an honor, but it’s also a turning point. Zurich athlete Jonas Rice travels to the United States on Sunday for weeks of training. Such trips will become a habit for the 28-year-old in the coming months. In about a year and a half, the business economist with a bachelor’s degree wants to move the center of his life to Boulder to continue his athletic career.
The reason is special. Jonas Raess is the newest and only Swiss member of the On Athletics Club (OAC) based in Boulder in the western United States. A group funded by the Swiss sporting goods brand trains there around former world sprinter and current head coach Dathan Ritzenheim.
About a dozen middle- and long-distance runners of extraordinary ability do it all in the mountains of Colorado under highly professional conditions to take a decisive step toward the best possible performance.
Ryffel Record of 1984 and Magical Threshold
A few hours before his departure, Jonas Rice also spoke of a magic mark – 13 minutes over 5000 metres, and no Swiss had ever made his way this time. The closest was the legendary Marcus Revell with a 13:07.54 minute mark in his biggest success, a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Since this winter, Ras, from Langenau am Albis, knows what this time looks like. At a meeting in Boston in February, he snatched the 40-year-old’s indoor record over 5,000m from Ryffel, and the new indoor best time for athlete LC Regensdorf was 13:07.95.
In the same week, Ras, who has been entirely focused on athletics since the summer of 2019, also set an indoor record over 3,000m in New York.
Running fanatic as the new coach
In February, Ras also signed a contract as an athlete for the On brand. During the spring he completed his first camp at Dathan Ritzenheim in Boulder. It was about getting to know each other personally and assessing whether the opinions of two intrepid lunatics were compatible. “For an athlete, the coach is a very close confidant. It is very important that the chemistry is right,” says Jonas Rice.
He soon fell in love with his new ‘boss’: ‘Dathan lives with every fiber of his body for this sport and the athletes. His enthusiasm is quite contagious. I had a very good feeling from the start.”
The Swiss was also excited about his rivals. The most famous person in the group is a woman, two-time world 5,000m champion Helen Obery of Kenya. But Ras also found promising companions among the runners. Half a dozen athletes with their personal bests in just over 13 minutes are focused on the same goal. The Olympic participant in Tokyo was looking for such a unique quality in order to push his limits once again.
One of Salazar’s students who turned on the star coach
It is believed that he found the perfect coach in Dathan Ritzenheim. The 39-year-old has an interesting background. He became the first North American to run under 13 minutes in 2009. He achieved the feat at Weltklasse Zürich, of all places. From 2007 to 2014, Ritzheim was part of the Nike Oregon Project with controversial superstar coach Alberto Salazar, who has since been suspended for four years for doping.
In 2014, Ritzenheim left the group for his criticism of Frontier Styles. He later testified against his former coach in the doping experiment and is now trying to do so in a similar professional brand team with an entirely different philosophy geared much more towards the individual needs of the individual athlete. One convinces Jonas Rice.
Another reason Raess, who lives in Oerlikon, turned On a few months ago is the opportunity to be involved in developing running shoes. For the Swiss brand, track shoes with spikes and an emphasis on high performance are still fairly new territory. Ras himself ran at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade in March as one of the model’s first championships. A more advanced version is now in circulation.
On works hard with the track shoe
The special development team ensures the highest performance of competitive materials. “And shoes are by far a runner’s most important tool. It feels good when you have an opinion and your own contributions flow into the development process,” says Rice.
The current feeling is less good. Two days before the scheduled start of the Swiss championships in Letzigrund, an MRI scan confirmed that Jonas Rice was suffering from a stress reaction in the fibula, due to excessive stress.
Despite the bad news, which means the end of the world championships in Eugene in mid-July, the Swiss long-distance hope is now traveling to Boulder. There he wants to do what is humanly possible with alternative training, including on a specially designed treadmill with a lightweight, to be at least ready for the European Championships a month later in Munich. “My coach is an optimist and so am I,” says Jonas Rice.
World Cup winner due to overload
It is by no means the first injury in the athlete’s career. Various health setbacks played a major role in the fact that his potential was realized only at a late stage. During training, the entire stress-regeneration system wasn’t right, Reese explains. The step towards profit and the actual “reset” brought relief. They have now given him the privilege to be part of one of the track’s most important ‘work teams’.
But why does Jonas Rice still want to switch between Boulder and Oerlikon right now? He is a family man and as an athlete he has experienced that “Just Jonas is happy Jonas is also fast”. In the fall of 2023, his girlfriend, whom he calls “the anchor,” will graduate, and then the couple will move west together. In the land of endless possibilities.
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