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Series03 Apr 2019

Advice to my younger self: Julien Wanders


Swiss distance runner Julien Wanders (© Dan Vernon / NN Running Team)

Julien Wanders has broken world and European records on the roads, but he has learned many valuable lessons along the way, as he outlines here with a letter to his younger self.


Hi Julien,

Outside of the classroom, do you think of anything else other than sport? You are one sport-crazy kid and I know that you already have a burning desire to one day become a sportsman. You are just not quite sure yet which sport.

You are a handy tennis player and one of your heroes is the Swiss great, Roger Federer. You are also showing good potential on the soccer field, and I believe the regional team are showing an interest in your skills. Meanwhile, you are also a promising runner; good enough to finish inside the top 20 for your age group at the Swiss Cross Country Championships. You are very lucky to have a few options from which you can fulfil your future ambitions.

There is certainly no need to select your sport just yet, Julien. I would advise you to just keep on enjoying and devoting your energy to a range of sports. A combination of your talent and determination will set you on the right path later down the track.

If we stick with athletics for the moment, you are quite the all-rounder. I like the fact you are prepared to sample all events; the long jump, javelin, the middle distances. Nothing is off limits. This is good. Trying out many disciplines will help improve your coordination and build your strength for the future.

Oh, and don’t be too concerned by the fact that there is one boy at the club better than you over the middle distances.  That boy already has a personal coach and he trains every day. Be patient, Julien. Over time you will defeat him. He will lose motivation and drop out of the sport while you will go from strength to strength.

Music is an important part of family life. Your mum and dad are accomplished musicians, so you had no choice; you had to play an instrument and you opted for the cello. Music practise is not always easy. It can sometimes feel like a chore and you have put in a lot of hard work trying to master the cello. This has taught you the value of self-discipline; a skill that will prove so important in your future running career.

I know this may be hard to read, but occasionally you are prone to acting like a spoilt brat! Remember those times at Christmas when your sister received four presents from your parents and you complained when receiving three? Well, later down the road you will relocate to live and train in Kenya and this will give you a totally different perspective. It will make you less self-centred.

You will see that children in Kenyan come from a very humble background. They have no toys to play with but are happy and content. The experience will change your philosophy on life and you will become a better person.

I don’t want to say too much more, Julien. Just keep doing what you are doing and everything will turn out fine.


Steve Landells for the IAAF