Friday, March 27, 2015

Andreas Lubitz Story: The Son, The Father, The Drive

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, 7-pace 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 a 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.

Have you ever seen a meaner look at a photographer than this . . .

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.

That event was the 2013 Frankfurt Lufthsansa Halbmarathon, a distance of 13.1 miles. Lubitz finished in 1:37:09 according to his Athlinks results page, a 7:24 pace. This was actually his fourth consecutive Frankfurt Half, so his bib went from 4408 in 2010 to 403 in 2013, indicative of his progression as a runner in a sport known for wellness. His Athlinks page does not list the 2011 race, but I found his PDF finisher certificate right here:

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. He was like so many Central Park runners I see all the time.

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 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. 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." As you can see from the map below, Koblenz is only a 20-minute drive from Lubitz's hometown of Montbaur.

It was 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 after the crash 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. We then learned more details about the matter in subsequent news coverage.

Andreas Lubitz ran this marathon in 2009.
Back to the Mi-Ma. That marathon is scheduled for May 17. So it's a spring marathon, a time of amazing wonder and especially enjoyable for a runner in Germany (or here). When they ran it, the race organizers were celebrating the fifth anniversary, so it was a budding event. If you look at the logo on the race website, it includes the motto: "Gib deinen Sinnen freien Lauf!" In English, that translates to "Let your senses run wild!"

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:

I researched nearly 150 Runners World photos of the 2009 MiMa, and while I could not locate #1428 Andreas Lubitz, I did locate #1429 Günter Lubitz. Notice the same blue ASICS cap with white side trim that he is wearing at the top of this blog. I presume Andreas was wearing his in this same race since they probably would have acquired them together:

Click here to see exactly how father and son ran their marathon. Notice the eery, rocky mountains alongside the course, when viewing this at fast-motion. Beautiful castles.

Andreas clearly was a strong runner who could be successful if he committed to it. You can see the difference in his physique from the photos at the top of this blog, in 2010, to the 2013 race imagery. He became physically fit. And it is obvious that his father was leading him by example, literally. Günter (right) was making his son into a marathoner.

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.

(Updated April 1, 2015) Lubitz ran Mittelrhein again in 2010, a year later, and this time it was a half. He finished in 1:32:47. He ran the half again in 2013 there, and his time increased to 1:41:49, a 7:46 pace.

2010 Mittelrhein Halbmarathon:

2013 Mittelrhein Halbmarathon:

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. (And they were 1428 and 1429 in the only marathon they ran together.) They are great races, complete with a stadium finish followed by beer provided to runners. His first one he ran with his father, Günter, and the younger Lubitz wore big 4408 and finished an impressive 1:34:38. Click here to see the PDF of the overall results.

Here's something that was puzzling to me and I researched further: The same Athlinks page shows that after that 2013 Mittelrhein, "Andreas Lubitz" competed in his third consecutive Albstadt-LBS Bike Marathon. It is an 86K mountain bike event, and his time went from 5:24:47 in 2011 to 5:26:26 in 2012 to a vastly improved 4:32:19 in July of 2013. I am trying to confirm whether this was a different Andreas Lubitz or the same one, and I have just emailed the organizers of that race via their website. I do not believe it was the same man. If you click on the 2012 results, and then click on Lubitz's name, you'll see that he also rode that race in 2014 and most importantly, that he is registered for this September's event. That's someone who is psyched for the future. That Lubitz is listed as from the Balingen region, and that is southwestern Germany. Also, the only listing of age on the Athlinks page is that 2012 bike race, and it says age 50. There is another Andreas Lubitz from Stuttgart, near Balingen, a veteran press agent, and it is my presumption that is the individual who did the bike racing. I will explore further but I am 99 percent sure that's not the same man.

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?


Jacqueline Fisher said...

Thank you for presenting accurate facts and race times. I do disagree with your last paragraph though. It is unfair to say that all good runners are ambitious and goal driven and free of depression and mental illness. Many runners struggle with depression and other mental illnesses and sometimes even use running as therapy. So just because he was an accomplished runner does not mean we can say he wasn't struggling with a major form of mental illness. I feel that depression in runners is something that is completely overlooked.

Mark Newman said...

Thanks, Jacqueline. Yeah, I don't feel that is absolute by any means, just saying that by and large runners are ambitious, goal-oriented, determined...things that are incongruous with crashing a plane into a mountain.

Mark Newman said...

Jackie, just reread what I wrote and indeed I said "tend to be" again I wasn't saying it's absolute. Definitely most runners are not dealing with mental health issues. It's incongruous for the most part. I feel for any who do.

KK said...

Running may help but it probably can't cure serious mental illness.

vivien said...

This piece of shit, sorry excuse for a man deserves to rot in hell. And let's not give him too much credit as a runner. He's a slightly better than average runner. I run faster than him, so I'm more of a man than he ever was. But in all seriousness, he actually trained to run those times. So he had those positive endorphins you get when you work out. It's surprising that he was that mentally ill, he had to take the lives of all those innocent people. It literally makes me sick to think there are individuals on this world that can do that. Good job on getting this info.

Anonymous said...

very interesting! Thank you, this provides all sorts of fascinating information!

Anonymous said...

I was searching to find his running results after hearing that he was a health freak etc.

To be honest he is far less than an average runner, no talent there as a competitive runner, in fact his times are slow for racing. My times for halfs were low 90's and in Boston were less than 3 and half hours. Not close enough for even remotely an honorable mention even in my age group. I was mid 50's after picking up running at age 46, so for a kid, he had no talent.

As for runners and their mindset, runners are no different than anything else. You can put a runner under the lens all over the place, but in the end are just human and have their own positives and negatives.

Unknown said...

It would be interesting if his running activity had stopped in the last little while. I know from my own experience that a stoppage of running from injury or a bad cold can send me into a state of mild depression. Imagine the drop in mood if a real depressed person stopped running. Not that it justifies taking your life and hundreds of others, but it may add one more piece of information to help get to the answe.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for digging into his results. This was everything I wanted to know. FWIW I think a HM runner close to 1:30 may have taken his 4-hour-ish marathon debut as a failure. He may have felt that the half was a better distance for him. More significant would be if he stopped running for a while before the crime. Lots of use are on running therapy.

Mark Newman said...

To the "Unknown" commenter who posted this, thank you -- I found it very insightful and telling, and included in the first paragraph of this blog post. Thanks.

"It would be interesting if his running activity had stopped in the last little while. I know from my own experience that a stoppage of running from injury or a bad cold can send me into a state of mild depression. Imagine the drop in mood if a real depressed person stopped running. Not that it justifies taking your life and hundreds of others, but it may add one more piece of information to help get to the answer."

Mark Newman said...

To the Anonymous commenter who wrote, "To be honest he is far less than an average runner, no talent there as a competitive runner, in fact his times are slow for racing..."

I appreciate you taking the time to comment, but frankly it was a sophomoric statement and does not speak well of your own running abilities. To denigrate any runner who posts a finish time in the 3's in their first 26.2 as a 21-year-old is a bit dumb. I can't think of another word. If you're going to try to get inside this runner's mind, which is what I tried to do, I think you should be open-minded and not set out to troll people's comments anonymously and make it appear that you are above others. Bye.

Bib Snirh said...

You are super duper. Ass

Gilles said...

Thank you for this fascinating blog. It has made me wonder about the father's running habits. Did they always both race together and did the father also stop running recently? I am wondering whether the junior might have taken up running (and continued) under pressure from the father and a desire to live up to certain expectations? Did you come across any earlier evidence of the father's running history (PBs etc...)? I think it might be interesting to know how talented a runner the father was in his youth.

Anonymous said...

We tend to look at long distance running as a physical challenge, but it is just as much a mental challenge. Running itself is mentally healing for me. I always feel better during and after a run. But here is the weird thing. When I feel really down (depressed?) I don't want to run although I know it would make me feel better. Maybe something like this happened to Lubitz. He got caught in such a vicious cycle.
I think Lubitz's running performance was good, definitely better than average. Running a half in the low 1:30s is a very good performance. The half may have been just his distance like others prefer a 5k or a marathon.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting! I was going to look all of this info up, and you did the work for me. This mass murderer had demons that running couldn't cure obviously.

Mark Newman said...

Gilles, I will see what I can locate re the father's earlier running results. Thank you for that suggestion and am glad you agree that there is something to seriously look at here regarding the father and son relationship via running.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your very detailed account. If this running was all based on this guy being a "health freak" as someone has suggested, then I think his illness was more than depression. I happen to know a young man about the same age as this co pilot who was obsessed about his fitness and health. He even had all the mercury fillings taken out of his teeth. He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and is now being treated. This murderer had more than depression, imo.

Anonymous said...

Interesting analysis, though a bit speculative at some points.

There are some inaccuracies concerning the one marathon he had run: First, it's certainly not called "Ergebnisse Mittelrhein-Marathon", with Ergebnisse meaning results. Second, the connection to Lubitz' original hometown of Montabour is much nearer than to Düsseldorf, both figuratively and geographically (there's a Düsseldorf Marathon, taking place in May as well). I'm generally wondering why you think he "owned a flat [there] at the time", with Düsseldorf becoming an obvious choice of residence only after he had been hired by Germanwings in 2013. He probably didn't own it either, with renting a flat being the conventional option (home ownership rate is low in Germany, especially if you're at the beginning of your career and live in a rather expensive city such as Düsseldorf).

Mark Newman said...

Anonymous, thanks for your helpful comments. I've made a few tweaks based on those, including improvement of the geography of his home marathon.

Anonymous said...

.....The revelations came as top French psychiatrist Samuel Lepastier said it was highly likely Lubitz was suffering from schizophrenia given the strong medication he was on – notably Olanzapine, whose side effects can include “unusual changes in personality, thoughts or behaviour; hallucinations and suicidal tendencies”.
“It is highly likely he was schizophrenic, given the medication he was taking,” Dr Lepastier, head of research at Paris Diderot university told The Telegraph.
On Tuesday, Germanwings parent Lufthansa confirmed that when Lubitz resumed pilot training in 2009 he provided the flight school with medical documents showing he had gone through a “previous episode of severe depression”.Dr Lepastier said Lubitz’s initial severe depressive episode “could have been the first manifestation of schizophrenia, which often first strikes in one’s early twenties”....

Erik said...

His Garmin-account would probably provide more insight into his running habits. I'm not a Garmin-user myself but maybe someone who uses it can see more of his runs. He uses the nickname flying_andy.

The stats of his 2011 Frankfurt Halbmarathon, his slowest, are shown here:

Anonymous said...

So don´t you think it´s strange that he has always the same face expression in most pictures even taken at different locations ?

What makes you sure these pics are real ?

I have not seen proof of photoshopping tho....

Seems strange he always looks the same.

Have you guys any other strange sthings to report, will check back


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Father and son relationship

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