News : Marathon: Rabea and Debbie Schöneborn on the competition as twins
The role model of Deborah and Rabea Schöneborn is the really big sister. In 2008 it was Lena Schöneborn, 35, who won the gold medal in the modern pentathlon at the Olympic Games in Beijing. “She showed us that you can create a mix of sporting and professional careers,” says Rabea Schöneborn.
Now Deborah and Rabea, 27 and twin sisters, could represent the Schöneborn sports family again at the Olympic Games. The athletes want to make it to the summer games in Tokyo in the marathon. Both live together in an apartment in Berlin, they train together and in the same club – and they already undercut the necessary 2:29:30 hours in Valencia in December.
But qualifying for Japan is complicated, it is competitive, and the sisters have now become competitors. Although they see it a little differently.
MIRROR: Rabea Schöneborn, only the three fastest German marathon runners go to Tokyo. You are currently standing at a time of 2:28:42 hours on the 42.2 kilometers, so you are currently not among the German top three. But on Sunday in Enschede, the Netherlands, you have the opportunity to improve your time.
Rabea Schöneborn: The competition can still be canceled. We wanted to run in Hamburg two weeks ago, but this competition was canceled without further ado and moved to an airfield in Enschede. This planning uncertainty has existed since the beginning of the corona pandemic, which is annoying. But you have got used to it a little and it doesn’t help to brood and complain all the time. That’s why I’m just looking forward to the starting line now. I’ve trained hard, but you just need competition to really improve.
MIRROR: In Enschede there will be three other German runners in addition to you. If you and another German runner improve their times so far in Enschede, your twin sister, Deborah, could possibly fly out of the current top three, where she currently holds second place (2:26:55 hours). Are you going to take your sister out of Olympia Square?
Rabea Schöneborn: My goal is your time, but the big goal is that we both get to Tokyo. We want to be in second and third place in the ranking, Melat Kejeta’s best German time (2:23:57 hours) is currently unattainable. She is safe in Tokyo.
MIRROR: It wasn’t really a challenge now.
Rabea Schöneborn: The situation is a little strange, of course, but it doesn’t affect us. I recently bought a massage gun that you can use to massage yourself to promote regeneration. Then I was asked if I would also borrow Debbie in this competitive situation.
Rabea Schöneborn: We massage each other with the gun. I also keep my training partner fit. The benefit of my sister as a training partner clearly outweighs it. The fact that we are also competitors is just an accessory.
MIRROR: Deborah, you could have also participated in Enschede, but you are not doing it voluntarily because your foot is causing a little problem. The doctor would have given the go. How will you follow the race on Sunday?
Deborah Schöneborn: Yes, I don’t want to burn myself out, otherwise it might get worse with my foot. Actually, I would really like to be there to cheer on my sister. But because of Corona, only athletes are allowed on this airfield: no coach, no family, no one. Now my sister has to go through this alone and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for her from home. It should run a strong time, I watch it very relaxed.
MIRROR: Your Olympic course could be in danger and you are calmly watching it?
Deborah Schöneborn: No, actually I even feverish with her. If necessary, I could improve my time in another qualifying competition, although no date has yet been set. It would be impractical if we couldn’t go to Tokyo together.
Deborah Schöneborn: Exactly, our entire annual planning would be mixed up. One would have to prepare for Japan, the other would have a different training plan and would train for big runs in the fall – you almost live past each other. We don’t want that. Coming to Tokyo together would make everything easier. And it would just be nicer.
MIRROR: The marathon is considered an individual sport, but together you act more like a marathon team. Do you plan to run slipstream for a competition in order to help each other and get a better time out of it?
Rabea Schöneborn: We try to go into a race with the same fitness level – and then we want to support each other there too. But a marathon like this is damn long. At the marathon in Valencia I lost my bottle and missed the connection with Debbie, who then ran in a different group. But that’s fine too, we can both do our own thing too.
MIRROR: Do you notice when other people are feeling bad while running?
Rabea Schöneborn: Not in competition, because we are too busy with ourselves. But during training you can tell when your sister is feeling bad, for example when she has breathing problems. But then there is no point in putting on the other one and hanging out, because the next day it is usually the case that the other one has more power.
MIRROR: In Enschede you run on a beautiful, smooth airfield. Hardly any vertical meters. Is that an advantage for you, Rabea?
Rabea Schöneborn: Or maybe a disadvantage because the field is more susceptible to wind and there won’t be any spectators cheering me on? The last time in December in Valencia was that we had to run two laps through the city, two half marathons so to speak, which you can divide up nicely in your head and the design of the racing tactics is a bit easier. Now it goes in circles over the airfield, it is really exhausting for the head and is a mental challenge.
MIRROR: Rabea, you graduated with a degree in psychology and Deborah is now a doctor with a PhD in sports medicine. How do you still have time for a professional sports career?
Deborah Schöneborn: We are currently training more professionally than ever before, that was difficult to do during our studies, we were just on the road too much. But now that we are working and mostly doing computer work in the home office, you can schedule the training units as you need them. We don’t work full-time and usually train twice a day, four to five hours, running, stabilization, strength training. We tasted blood and want to go to Tokyo, this goal has become a realistic possibility. That just inspires.
MIRROR: Do you finance your sports career yourself?
Deborah Schöneborn: We are funded by Sporthilfe, if you study as a member of the management team, you get support through a scholarship, we get money from the association. That sounds like a lot, but I am also very clear: If we want to earn money, then we would have to use our training now and get a permanent job. We would earn a lot more then than with the sport. It is also the case that entry fees for competitions have almost disappeared, no organizer can still afford them after a year with Corona. Those who want to run in competition are more likely to pay more. Sport is a passion, but in our case there is absolutely no way to get rich.
Rabea Schöneborn: And professional sport would never have been possible without the financial support of our parents.
MIRROR: Some athletes are very active on social networks and earn money with advertising. You also have an Instagram account.
Rabea Schöneborn: Yes, but you shouldn’t imagine the sponsors waiting for you there. It is a difficult field where you get rejections rather than promises for a partnership.
MIRROR: Two years ago there was a successful laboratory test with superstar Eliud Kipchoge to run a marathon under two hours for the first time. When will women crack the magic mark in the marathon? Brigid Kosgei from Kenya currently has a world record of 2:14:04 hours.
Rabea Schöneborn: Phew, never.
Debbie Schöneborn: I don’t think that’s possible either. The sporting and technical development in running is already very far, there are high altitude training camps, international top groups that train together – but from a certain level, minute improvements in the marathon are huge leaps. The two hours are just very far away. And as for us: We are already more than ten minutes behind the absolute elite of women. That’s enormous.
MIRROR: Do you come into contact with the absolute superstars at a race?
Deborah Schöneborn: It is difficult to do, many speak very little English. But it’s incredibly exciting to watch the fastest runners. They are focused on the race, don’t chat and feel like they live in their own world – and then they pull through the competition without straining their faces. I find that inspiring. The marathon is a competition where a lot happens in the head – and the world stars with their focus are real role models.