In the interest of helping investigators discover the who and why after a tragedy and correcting a lot of mistakes I am finding in the media coverage, I started researching the running history of Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot who crashed the Germanwings airliner, and found a wealth of telling information about him. Running played a key and timely role in what reportedly became an ultimately fatal battle with mental health. I believe we can learn a lot about what made this overpronating enigma from Germany tick by looking at what he loved, and I hope that this research may prove useful in some way. I learned that he stopped running races for at least the past year, and per a runner comment below I think that could be telling; a person diagnosed with depression who sees running as an outlet might be greatly affected by no longer utilizing that outlet that had served him so well during the past half-decade. Based on feedback from other runners, I also feel this shines a light on the fact that a fair number of runners use this individual sport -- which is all about personal discovery, goal-setting, self-improvement, ambition and hopefulness -- to deal with depression and anxiety, and to a larger degree just the stress of everyday life.
Pay especially close attention to the father-son running relationship of Günter & Andreas, as the father ran side-by-side with him in the son's only marathon, pushing him to a sub-4 finish at the local race they called the "Mi-Ma" together in 2009. They would run together for halfs to come, like above in 2010, as Andreas inexplicably chose not to see how far he could take 26.2 rather than pursuing what easily could have been a Boston Marathon given his immediate abilities. Was Günter being an exemplary dad as they pushed the limits together and even dressed alike with expo gear? Or was the father pushing him to other extreme limits and an emotional trigger as the son became a man, indicative of an intense upbringing? As a father myself I'd like to think it was the former, but we are left with loose ends and everything must be looked at closely. I examine their deduced relationship below. I uncovered various race pics and the PDF file that the younger Lubitz was able to click on after finishing the 2010 Frankfurt Half Marathon in 1:34:38.
I also was interested because this commonly published photo of him below running in a No. 403 bib as seen here in The Telegraph is incorrectly captioned by global media. It is attributed to photographer Wolfgang Nass/BILD, and it reads in that article: "Andreas Lubitz competing in a Lufthansa marathon in 2013." As I composed this article, I had CNN on and heard multiple broadcasters, including on Wolf Blitzer's segment, constantly citing a "2013 marathon." That was NOT a marathon. He was a marathoner, but there is a lot of nonfactual data being thrown around, because the tendency too often is to lazily repurpose what other media are saying.
The Wall Street Journal profile of him, posted early during the news cycle, also has a still-posted inaccuracy. They said he ran the Frankfurt Half from 2011-13. They just need to add 2010.
Notice in that 2013 race pic, he's wearing ASICS tights and shoes and calf sleeves, even a buff like I wear on chilly days; it was a cold March day and he overdressed a bit considering his natural pace. (In the race pics, I see a lot of the same blue Paris Marathon buffs that I and other participants received at the 2012 event.) He was an overpronator, rolling his foot inward as you can see from the footfall above. By all accounts he was a fast runner, but one whose finish time may have plummeted significantly just in the past year.
This is when I found something odd. The earliest available record of Lubitz running a race, at least on his Athlinks page (we have already found one missing half, so don't assume that page is comprehensive), was his only marathon. So it is correct to say he was a marathoner. It was the Ergebnisse Mittelrhein-Marathon in 2009, and he finished in 3:54:41. "Mittelrhein" is translated in English as "Middle Rhine," referring to the Rhine River. They call this marathon the "Mi-Ma. "As you can see from the map here, Mittelrhein is the same region as Dusseldorf, where he owned a flat at the time. It was in nearby Koblenz, a 2,000-year-old city situated on the Rhine and Mosel rivers and surrounded by the Hunsrück, the Eifel, the Taunus and the Westerwald. Among the special attractions of the city, which has about 107,000 inhabitants, including the Electoral Palace from the 18th century, the Old Castle -- a moated castle dating from the 13th century.
It was pretty much a local marathon, and things looked bright for Andreas Lubitz as a marathoner in 2009. He was just 21 years old at the time. He wanted to fly on the ground and in the sky.
If that calendar year seems curious, it's because much of the world has been talking about what happened to him that same year. Which makes the whole thing so curious.
Bild reported that in 2009, Lubitz underwent psychiatric treatment for 18 months for a "serious depressive episode" . . . "around the same time he took six months off from flight training." Lubitz was deemed "not suitable for flying" by the Phoenix, Ariz., flight school operated by Germanwings' parent company Lufthansa, according to documents obtained by the paper. His depression forced him to retake flying classes and get "special regular medical examinations." Former classmates said he took time off for "burnout syndrome" or depression, according to Der Spiegel.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr told reporters Thursday that Lubitz took leave in 2009, and the following day it was revealed that Lubitz was keeping a medical condition extremely secret, even tearing up a doctor's note saying he was unfit to fly on the day the plane crashed in the Alps.
|Andreas Lubitz ran this marathon in 2009.|
It is possible that Lubitz ran that 2009 race before undergoing psychiatric treatment, but I'm betting that he ran it as PART of his treatment program, a wellness act and something positive to focus on. By all accounts, it seems like a wonderful event for healing. I believe that running became a key element in his own treatment plan, whether that was self-prescribed or by someone else. That someone else could have been his father, telling him how things will be done.
Here are the results for Andreas and his father Günter, almost identical. So you can picture them running the race mostly together, and you also can spot an early trend in the son's running:
Only 21 and with a stellar time of 3:54:41 in your first marathon, and especially if there is a strong coaching influence in your own household, your natural inclination probably is to want to see how fast you can really get in that marathon. You want to be worldly and travel. Theoretically you would want to see if you could become a Boston Marathon qualifier.
But Andreas Lubitz never entered another marathon that I could find. He settled on the half, a steady diet of them. He looked forward to them. They were just right for him. He did not have the mental tenacity that it took to go after a BQ or to blast through a wall again in pursuit of the 26.2 mile finish line. In 2013, Lubitz ran Mittelrhein again, but this time he chose to run the half rather than the marathon. His time was 1:41:49, a 7:46 pace.
In 2007, Andreas Lubitz had come 72nd out of 780 participants in a 10-kilometer New Year’s week run in Montabaur, racing alongside Günter. So Lubitz had kept running, extended his distance, and he had become a marathon runner. Then he never ran a marathon again. They made the Frankfurt Half their tradition. The son was bib 4408 and the father was 4409 in the one I pulled the race pic from. They are great races, complete with a stadium finish followed by beer provided to runners. His first one he ran with his father, Gunter, and the younger Lubitz wore big 4408 and finished an impressive 1:34:38. Click here to see the PDF of the overall results.
This Capital Bay article showed the following picture and captioned it as a "2013 half-marathon." That is another inaccuracy. This was taken on Sept. 13, 2009, at the Airportrun at Hamburg in northern Germany. In any case, this is the only warm-weather running pic of him I have seen:
He has a running watch on the left wrist, but I was curious about what is on his right wrist. How many guys wear tennis bracelets on their other wrist while they run? Just curious.
I am having trouble discerning his 2014 results. The most recent event listed on his Athlinks page was the B2Berlin 2014, and if you search for that event, you'll find an Andreas Lubitz who was running for Skandia Insurance Management Service. The pace is far slower than Lubitz was running, so I clicked on the video link there and looked for bib #11314. As you can see below, that clearly is not the co-pilot. In fact, it might be the 86K mountain biker I was looking for. So I think we can safely say that Lubitz the co-pilot did not run the B2Berlin 2014 race.
There is a 2014 B2 Run Dusseldorf 6.6K listen on the Athlinks page, and it is plausible that he was a relay runner in that event. But again looking at the results, I find that unlikely. I see no clear evidence that he finished any race in 2014, or at least none reported on Athlinks. I have to add that I typically do not look at Athlinks, so it is safe to say he could have run an event elsewhere. I will defer to other runners out there for possible clarification on what happened to him in 2014.
If you have further record of Lubitz' races, or knew him as a runner, please leave your comments here as we try to help investigators piece together this situation, focusing here on his running and what it might have meant to his history of personal wellness or lack thereof. I find it incredibly incongruous that someone with Lubitz's running talents and interests would balance that with what we are seeing to be an apparent deep mental issue. Good runners tend to be driven, ambitious, goal-oriented, treating their bodies like temples, living life with passion, all about self-improvement. Something is missing so badly here based on his running profile and what we are seeing in the news.
What do you think?