Born in Ethiopia in 1994, Helen Bekele Tola has emerged as one of the leading figures in women’s racing. With a marathon PR of 2:21:01 and a 10km record of 30:45, few can keep up. Now based in Geneva, her sights are set on an Olympic berth. The world is watching.
Helen – why running, and how did you get started? My father was a sports teacher. He was so enthusiastic. When he introduced me to running, I found something I enjoyed and I wanted to do it more and more. I haven’t stopped since. Every day, it’s a key part of my life.
When you don’t feel like training, what inspires you to get out there? I think about my objectives and goals. I know that if I don’t put in the work, I won’t achieve what I want to achieve. Later in my life I don’t want to look back at my career and have any regrets. I want to know that I gave it everything I could.
Can you tell us about the lessons sport has taught you? I was injured at the Nagoya Women’s Marathon in 2020, but I kept going. Eventually I finished sixth with a time of 2:23:52. Doing that needed all of my fighting spirit. It showed me what I can accomplish even when things are going against me. It proved to me how powerful a tool determination can be.
Do you have a special pre-race ritual? I pray. My faith is so important to me. It keeps me calm and gives me confidence. It’s an inner strength.
Is nutrition a big focus? What’s your go-to meal after a tough run? Yes. What we eat and how we eat is very important. It’s even more important when you’re competing, and fine margins can make all the difference. After a hard training session, my favorites are rice or pasta.
Who is your ‘team’? All my friends at Stade Genève Club and my running team.
What’s the best running advice you’ve received? To believe in myself, to be confident and to win the race. Self-confidence and belief are so important. They can help you perform even when you have secret doubts.
Apart from running, what are your passions? I love to swim and play badminton in my free time. They both keep me active but they’re a nice break from constantly running.
What’s your favorite On gear? The Cloudflyer is incredibly comfortable. I rack up a lot of miles in them while I’m training and they never let me down. The Weather Jacket is another winner. I can’t believe how light it is.
Finally, why On? I moved to Switzerland in 2015. Switzerland is my home, so to wear Swiss-engineered products feels like an extension of my family.