In early April, long-serving staff member Geneviève Kohli will embark on a six-day, 251 km ultramarathon known as the Marathon des Sables.
While training for this race, Geneviève approached the School to propose raising funds for a cause in which she believes deeply: scholarships for deserving students at Aiglon. As a result, we are excited to launch the "Scholarship Challenge" as part of this year's annual giving campaign to support the School's scholarship programme. All gifts will help fund deserving students.
We spoke to Geneviève, who works as Aiglon's travel secretary, as to what inspired her to this cause. "Your support will be a huge motivation during the long hot days when I may wonder what I'm doing here," she told us. "Running to support or scholars will keep me focused and will make this achievement even more special."
Aiglon's Executive Director, Richard McDonald, voiced his support for Geneviève's efforts. "Today, with the help of philanthropic support, we offer 17 fully-funded places, and our community is immeasurably enriched by the diverse contributions to the life of our School made by the beneficiaries. These students push their limits - whether in the classroom, on expedition or in a range of unique ways. Geneviève, too, will push herself to limit, exemplifying not just the core Aiglon value of challenge, but also service to others."
With challenge as a central part of Aiglon’s ethos, it might not come as a surprise that Geneviève is not the first Aiglonian to take on this trek through the Sahara. This legendary race was also tackled by alumnus Sebastiano Arlotta Tarino (Belvedere, 2007) in 2016 finishing in the elite top 50. "When I am running in the desert, I am trying to find out what is beyond the things you see," he says. "I learned to do that at Aiglon. I realised I had to make the most of it and not to take anything for granted, but, instead, make the most of everything on offer in this unique and beautiful playground."
When asked what advice he might have for Geneviève, Sebastiano provided a short litany of practical tips and tricks for desert running but concluded this way. “Take time to enjoy the spectacular wilderness, embrace the wave of humility it will give you and remember it's only about putting one foot in front of the other… All it takes is all you have got!”
We also spoke to Aiglon alumnus Dadley Ogetii (Alpina, 2016) who not only benefited from Aiglon scholarships himself but has even gone onto a successful race career at St Lawrence University on their cross country team winning numerous awards. "An Aiglon education fostered an attitude that embraced challenge and a yearning for improvement. I feel lucky to have benefited from Aiglon's scholarship programme, without which all of this would not have been possible."
Geneviève is an experienced racer. "I started running late, but I have always been sporty. My first race was a 63 km/+4000m in the Alps in 2011. It was a tough challenge!" She knew that this first experience would open the door for greater adventures. "I finished, and I really loved it. After this race, I knew there would be many more to come."
This gruelling trek through the Sahara Desert is the stuff of legends. Runners must be self-sufficient and carry all their food and equipment for the week on their back. They likewise are not permitted to leave anything on the course. The race passes through endless dunes, over rocky jebels and across white-hot salt plains. We are pleased that already almost CHF 3,000 has been raised in support with 16 staff members and alumni so far rallying around Geneviève for this unbelievable challenge that is truly in the Aiglon spirit.