Marathon and life, sport and study for unity

Marcus Scheiermann, Switzerland


A young Swiss athlete, a priest, and as of today, a Dr. In Theology at the IUS, tells us about his passion for running, leading up to the 30th marathon of Florence, about his ties between sport, life choices, and academics.




Your saga is quite original: how did you become a marathon runner?


It’s a very simple story really.  I started to run about 10 years ago, when already a priest, and with a parish assigned to me, when a friend invited me to take part in a non-competitive running event. At the start it was only a good occasion to be able to be with friends; and it was the beginning of a very passionate practice that continues today. The one who proposed it to me, in fact, was the marathon runner who had won the latest Swiss competition that year.  The consequences followed in a chain reaction: back then, I was a smoker and logically I could not keep up with my friend, the effort was killing me while my pride was wounded... I had to make it. Therefore, the first decision I made was: to stop smoking, and I started to train seriously.



In 2006, you ran your first marathon in Basel.


It was madness. The effort to finish the 42 kms, as anyone knows, is immense: I was quite ill during the race, but then, after the stress passed, I saw the benefit I had drawn from it: the training was giving me a new psycho-physical balance, and was bringing to my pastoral activity enriched quality of contents.

It’s not so strange that this experience was able to effect my life so much. There are many analogies to be made, in fact, between a marathon and a spiritual walk. At the beginning there is always the enthusiasm, the certainty of making it, the fast pacing... The same thing happens on the other road we are on: when God enters your life it is a moment of great light. During the races, at the starting line you see yourself surrounded by encouraging people, who give you energy, but then, after the first few kilometers, difficulties come along. For me, it happens always between the 15th and 20th kms: something changes. Tiredness overwhelms you. It is at this point that you must recover the basics of running, the right breathing technique, the constant pace... In the same way, in facing the many sufferings in life, you must go back to the roots, to the fundamental choice you made. 

Further on, another dramatic experience happens: “the marathon wall.” The crisis: having come to a certain point, the effort is so frightening that you doubt your ability to make it to the finish line. Something similar happens to one’s faith; pope Frances said recently that in each one’s life there comes a moment of crisis, a refusal of God. Yet, it is possible to take a further step forward, to concentrate on the present, to take one more step, and yet another... and then you remember that a little further ahead yur friends are waiting for you and they will be offering you some sustenance, or an energy drink... In the race with God too, when you can’t make it any longer, it’s often your friends who will give you a helping hand.



Why did you add this challenge to your time at the IUS, at this point in your life?


Its a new goal ,right? Studying is for me an opportunity to open my experience up to dialogue among brothers, with their cultures, so as to make way for that project of humanity many of us dream of. When I understood that Sophia would offer me this possibility, it wasn’t easy, obviously, to decide to leave Switzerland for a time and to leave the youth of my parish, of my diocese.

But now I am able to see the gain that comes from it. It’s an experience that will be very useful to me: because of the method of study I am learning, because of the course contents , because of the prospectives that I am identifying through my research , because of the space for lived fraternity which opens my questions up to those of other collegues.



You had been in Tuscany only two months when, last November 24, you were already participating in the 30th marathon of Florence...


Together though! A group of students came with me to Florence and supported me at the dreaded moment of crisis during the race... But I made it: I ran to the finish line as number 2543 over 12 thousand runners.

It’s true, the race was hard this time as well, but the analogies continue. After a year, I can say that the IUS too requires much effort. It is not easy to do away with one’s own convictions and to open up to welcome, unarmed, the thoughts and lives of people so different from yourself. It takes a great effort to dive into this sea: coming face to face with your own limits, both mental and physical, but the experience is so enriching that it gives back to you in the same way.

Probabably the finish line will be a little different here: the end of the race, at the end of each marathon, is a beautiful moment and I don’t know if it will be the same when I finish at Sophia... To present the thesis will mean to open up a new race, the one closest to my heart, side by side with many others, at the service of a culture of unity.


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