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Marathon runners raise funds for sick children

(Keystone)

About 500 Swiss are taking part in the world's most famous marathon race through the streets of New York on Sunday.

A group from Geneva, Running Together, is participating in a bid to raise money for children suffering from ill health.

"The start is on the Verazzano Bridge which links Staten Island and Brooklyn and you can't help noticing the magnificent view," says amateur athlete René Dutoit.

"There are thousands of people of different ethnic backgrounds lining the streets, Africans, Mexicans or Spaniards. Running the New York marathon is like crossing several countries," Dutoit adds.

It's the 17th time in row that the employee of a travel agency is running the 42 kilometres through East River, Queens and First Avenue.

"It feels a bit like being a top athlete at the Olympic Games. As you approach the finishing line you hear the crowd cheering you on," he recalls.

Dutoit has a professional reason for his enthusiasm. He works for one of the three travel agencies in Switzerland which are licensed by the organisers to sell entries.

Switzerland has a quota of 500 runners who can take part in the marathon. They spend about SFr3,000 ($2,393) each for the adventure, including flight and hotel.

Elite

A total of 37,000 people, including 15,000 from outside the United States, will tackle the challenging distance this year. A further 60,000 people who hoped to enrol did not get a coveted place.

As for the elite of marathon athletes they are invited to take part in the New York race, and the winner takes home a premium of $100,000.

Switzerland is represented by its number two, Julien Gantenbein, since Viktor Röthlin – who came seventh last year in New York – is not taking part.

Gantenbein says he is not likely to repeat Röthlin's feat. "I ran the Berlin marathon a month ago and New York is more for pleasure and the sensation of having two million spectators."

Tiffany

Gantenbein has recently joined the group Running Together. Its founder, Carole Lauk from Geneva is also in taking part in the Sunday's event.

She has been working as a volunteer at the Geneva Children's Hospital for about ten years where she offers workshops for children suffering from cancer. This is where she met Tiffany.

"We planned to run the annual marathon in Geneva, but unfortunately Tiffany died before we could make this dream come true," says Lauk.

Instead Lauk set up the group Running Together in a bid to raise funds for sick children.

She is slightly concerned that she might not finish her first New York marathon. "But I won't give up easily. It's important for me and for the children."

swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux

Key facts

The first New York marathon took place in 1970.
Ethiopia's Tesfays Jifar currently holds the record with 2h 07min 43sec while Kenya's Margaret Okayo is the women's record holder with 2h 22min 31sec.
About 37,000 participants (including 500 Swiss, mostly amateur athletes) are running in this year's competition.

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Swiss presence at NY marathon

Among the hundreds of Swiss participants of the marathon in the past were former Olympic silver medal winner, Markus Ryffel and former Justice Minister Ruth Metzler.

In 1997 Switzerland's Franziska Rochat-Moser won the women's elite competition, while Daniel Böltz finished sixth in the men's event in 1991.

In 2005 Switzerland's Viktor Röthlin – who came second at this year's European championship in Sweden – crossed the finishing line in New York in seventh place.

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