Here’s Why the Swiss Women’s Run in Bern is a “Must”

Swiss Women's Run(Photograph copyright Michael Buholzer/swiss-image.ch)

The 30th running of the Schweizer Frauenlauf (Swiss Women’s Run) will be held in Bern this June.

I consider this a "must do" race for women who run in Switzerland and a celebration of women’s running - a right that we did not always have. Who will join me this year?

Did you know that nearly 40 years ago in Switzerland, women were not allowed to run in races, like the historic Morat-Fribourg course?

In 1973, Marijke Moser - who signed up as "Markus Aebischer" — was pulled off this course by race organizers before she could cross the finish line. She broke the rules by running in a men’s only race. It seems unimaginable that there was a time in Switzerland (and in the United States, where I am from) when I would not be allowed to run.

Eventually, women were allowed to participate in the Morat-Fribourg course in 1977, the year I was born. Ms. Moser went on to become the first female winner of this race.

A decade later in 1987, a new race started in Bern - and this time, only for women.

The Frauenlauf will host its 30th race on Sunday, June 12. In Switzerland, it has become the largest women’s sporting event and fifth largest running event. I ran the Frauenlauf for the first time in 2013 and have returned to the starting line every year since.

As part of this year’s kick-off event for the Frauenlauf, there was a special showing of the documentary Free to Run by Swiss director Pierre Morath. When I saw the film, I found the footage to be shocking. How could someone try to pull Kathrine Switzer off the course and prevent her from finishing the Boston Marathon in 1967? Why would someone want to stop Ms. Moser from completing the Morat-Fribourg course? People apparently used to think it was unhealthy for women to run long distances... I am so incredibly grateful for these women, and others like them, who helped make it possible for me to run today.

Fast-forward to the 21st century and thankfully, to a totally different era of women's running...

In 2015, the Frauenlauf had a record number of participants: 15'308 women and girls. Girls from the age of 8 years old and women of all ages and abilities, and from all over Switzerland and beyond, participate in this event. You will find races for girls (500 m and 1.6k), women’s running races (5k and 10k) and Nordic walking (5k and 15k).

Here is a photo from the 2014 Frauenlauf: (that’s me in the sunglasses!)

Swiss Women's Run in Bern(Photograph copyright Michael Buholzer/swiss-image.ch)

Not only is the Frauenlauf about celebrating the right for women to run. If you have run it before, you will know it is also a really fun and well organized race. The course takes you through Bern, the beautiful Swiss capital city whose medieval streets are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your race fee includes free public transportation to and from Bern, from anywhere in Switzerland.

For the 30th running of the Frauenlauf, you will notice a few new features this year, such as:

  • - A new route for the 10k race, which does not require you to re-trace part of the course. You will run within a section of the Dählhölzli Forest. All of the courses will finish in front of the Federal Palace this year.
  • - A new Run for Fun category for those who do not want their name to appear on the ranking list. Maybe you are running with a friend, and you do not plan on running competitively. You just want to participate without any consideration about your overall ranking. If you provide a cell phone number, you can still receive notification of your finishing time.
  • - A new official song, Girls of the Sun, by the Swiss band April Calls. After the race and the awards ceremony, they will perform this song during a brief concert.
  • - This year, girls can participate in the 500 meter and 1.6k races for free, thanks to Migros.
  • If you are a woman living in Switzerland who runs, or would like to start running, I recommend that you participate in the Frauenlauf at least once. I have been running for years and have never participated in another race like it. It is such a supportive and exciting atmosphere, while it also draws in elite runners for a fast and competitive race.

    Another expat running friend described it like this: "The crowd, the colors and the camaraderie make for a memorable run, each and every time." And when you are at the race, either as a spectator or a runner, please take a moment to remember those courageous women who fought to give us the opportunity to run (and to have a much better selection of sports bras!).

    More information here, and see you at the starting line in Bern on Sunday, June 12!

    Swiss Women's Run in Bern(Photograph copyright Michael Buholzer/swiss-image.ch)

    More information

    - Please note: Online registration closes for this race on June 1, 2016. All the details are on the official website (in German or French)
    - The Schweizer Frauenlauf Facebook page
    - Event listing with information in English

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    Heddi

    Originally from Minnesota, Heddi is based in the Suisse romande. An avid runner and Swiss food blogger, she enjoys exploring Switzerland with her family.
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