07 April 2021, 7am
Wed 15 September 2021
The Greifensee Run in Uster, on the outskirts of Zurich, is one of the largest and most idyllic runs in Switzerland. It celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2019 with 14,733 participants and even took place during the pandemic of 2020 – as “The Special One”.
Markus Ryffel won silver in the 5000m at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, but even before that he and his brother Urs had wanted to organise a fun run around Greifensee. They had been inspired by the New York City Marathon, the eighth edition of which Markus had run in 1977 at the age of 22. The idea became a reality in 1980 when the first event was held with 1400 runners.
Greifensee lies only 15 minutes outside the city. The scenery is breath-taking: both the half-marathon and the 10km course run alongside the lake where dense reed beds provide a habitat for many bird species. The view to the south reveals the nearby Alps, often already snow-capped in September when the run takes place.
The race has attracted prominent winners as well as some 250,000 runners in the various categories. In the 1980s and 1990s standout athletes Grete Waitz (NOR, 9-times winner of the New York Marathon), Rosa Mota (POR), Tegla Loroupe and Lorna Kiplagat (both KEN) competed and won.
In 1998 the Ryffel brothers organised the 7th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Uster and another dream came true. The Greifensee Run became famous beyond Europe, with Tegla Loroupe winning gold in the women’s race, and her fellow Kenyan Paul Koech winning the men’s.
In 2003, after the introduction of a 5km race as well as parents/kids’ categories, a record 10,000-plus runners registered. But it’s as much about the socialising as the race: just beyond the finish area people meet in Uster’s municipal park to celebrate and quench their thirst.
In recent years every finisher has received the organisation’s “MyRun” magazine with themselves as the front-page hero. At a mass sporting event amateur runners are the main protagonists and, in this case, the “cover models”. So every year 10,000 individual magazines are printed.
The most recent two runs were among the most special. In 2019 the Greifensee Run celebrated its 40th anniversary – with the same founding organisers. The event has long been an integral part of the Swiss running calendar, and a traditional date for top local runners such as the European half-marathon champion Tadesse Abraham. Many amateur athletes also use it as a test for an autumn marathon abroad.
Then came the biggest challenge of all: facing the 2020 pandemic. The team created “The Special One”: an event lasting not one day but six. Runners could pick their own slot, between Monday and Saturday, from 06.00–18.00, to run alone or in pairs over distances of 7 or 18 km. 4500 enthusiasts took advantage of this offer to experience an unforgettable summer day and a slice of normality in a fantastic environment.