I participated in running the 10K in the Lausanne Marathon alongside the students and faculty of Swiss Hotel Management School. Here’s what I learned about the spirit of SHMS and what makes them the best school.
I guess that the first thing you would think of when you hear “hospitality school” would not be running. It was a surprise to me, too, when I first heard about the school’s annual participation in the Lausanne Marathon. At first, it seems like those two things – hospitality and marathons – would have nothing in common. But what I learned throughout this journey, from agreeing to participate in the 10K to the day of the run itself, would surprise you.
This wouldn’t be my first long-distance run. Granted, “long-distance” is subjective; I once ran a 10K back in 2016 and thought I would never do it again because, to be honest, I hate running. However, this time I was invited to participate in the Lausanne Marathon as a school event with Swiss Hotel Management School (SHMS), running with students and faculty alike. Most of us were planning to run the 10K, a few settling for the 5K run. A handful of other brave souls were going for the full marathon.
Why did I say yes, even though I hate running? That is a good question. Perhaps it was due to how enthusiastically SHMS Assistant Dean Claire Jollain talked about the event and encouraged everyone to participate. Leading up to the day, she announced the event by email with excitement and followed up with messages encouraging everyone to give it a try. I felt a reassuring camaraderie when she shared with us about how she, too, wasn’t exactly the runner type, and yet she successfully ran the 10K last year. I felt motivated when I saw my courageous colleagues from both the Caux and Leysin campuses sign up. SHMS Lecturers such as Mr. Florin Cadar would tell everyone how he used to be a high school athlete, and was looking forward to getting back into his running shoes after a hiatus. Hearing their experiences and stories motivated me, and before I knew it, I reached out to the Caux campus Sports and Leisure Coordinator, Abdel Kader Belhenini, and got myself signed up.
I only figured out later that I had been ensnared by what can only be referred to as the SHMS spirit. It's an atmosphere filled with encouragement and support. Friends, students and colleagues work together to achieve their dreams and goals, encouraging each other to try something new, something we would never have considered doing otherwise, and motivating each other to perform better than we ever could alone. It is the cornerstone of how SHMS functions as a school and a community and a fundamental reason for everyone's individual and collective success.
On the day of the marathon, I met the Caux campus group at the Montreux train station. We were so lucky with the weather, a cloudy but bright and dry Sunday that was sliced between weeks of rain. It was as if the weather was programmed exactly for running. The team had brought water bottles, breakfast bars, and other little care items to share with each other. I gave out little magnet clips in case someone didn’t want to poke holes in their clothes to pin on our running numbers.
The full marathon runners had already been running since morning, while we 10K runners were starting in the afternoon. On the train to Lausanne, we could see participants already running along the road near the tracks. We tried to see if we recognized anyone, maybe one of our students, to cheer from inside the train, but it was very difficult to see faces when traveling so fast and at such a distance. At Lausanne Station, we were joined by the Leysin campus group. We walked together to the site of the race to warm up and pump each other up before the start time. We joked around, took pictures, talked to friends and acquaintances who were also there to race, and before we knew it, the time had come to line up.
Squeezed in behind the starting line, we had time to take one final “before” picture and made a promise to each other to wait at the finish line for everyone to finish. Some of us had aspirations to finish in their personal record time, while others, like me, were looking forward to just finishing at all. We did split up to go at our own pace, sometimes in pairs, but we were not leaving anyone behind, and we were there to cheer and celebrate together on the other side of the finish line. I finished somewhere in the middle of our group, feeling like my legs were going to fall off. I was slower than I had hoped; to be honest, I wasn’t too happy about my time afterwards, but I was greeted by big smiles from the likes of Program Managers Malin Persson and Mikhail Prudent as well as students celebrating their finishes, and I was reminded that what mattered in the moment was bigger than numbers. Despite my avoidance of running as an activity in general, I enjoyed the day and the company I was in. I had said yes to an activity I thought I would never try again, we all crossed the finish line, and we could all celebrate that together.
It’s difficult to recapture moments after they have passed, but I want to express how unique this experience was in terms of the feelings of camaraderie. On paper, we ran a 10K. In reality, we tried and tested a network of solidarity and support to achieve what we would not have even considered individually. That is really what the SHMS spirit is all about. It’s seeing our leaders be role models and running alongside you. It’s setting out with a goal in mind and getting business done despite the literal ups and downs. It’s the joy of accomplishing something difficult and having others to share the experience with you.
So, when someone asks what it’s like to go to a school like SHMS, this is the answer. SHMS isn’t necessarily about running a 10K. It’s about more than each activity we do on a checklist, about something that is bigger than the sum of its parts. It’s about turning improbability into triumph.
And it was truly a pleasure to witness.
Students and faculty of Swiss Hotel Management School participate together in the Lausanne Marathon every year as one of many student life activities available while studying in Switzerland. Learn more about us and our activities by downloading your brochure today.