Izyaslav Koza, 33, ran approximately 500km across the country, starting in Müstair on the Italian border on May 22nd and finishing in Chancy in the canton of Geneva on May 31st.
A self-supported run, he carried his own food, water and belongings and covered around 50km per day, staying in hotels at night.
His run took him through the Swiss National Park, Davos, Zurich, Biel/Bienne, Neuchâtel, Nyon and finally Geneva.
Koza, originally from Moldova but now living in New Jersey, US, is an experienced long-distance runner who has previously run across five other countries including Cuba, Ireland and France.
His epic challenges are partly about proving his love for his girlfriend, he told The Local on Wednesday as he neared the end of his run.
“All these runs were associated with winning her heart,” he said. “It was something I found necessary. It’s easy to say you care about someone when you are in a comfortable situation but when you are out of your comfort zone…[it’s more difficult].”
He chose to tackle Switzerland because it’s an important place for his Ukrainian-born girlfriend, who once had a fleeting chance to live here before finally ending up in the US.
“The idea was to run Switzerland and propose,” he said.
During his run he overcame illness and blisters, had to cope with a heatwave and ran over two tough mountain passes. But the beauty of the country kept him going.
“It’s unquestionably the most beautiful country. Every day you have mountains or lakes. When you’re running in a drearier part of a country it’s harder psychologically, but Switzerland had no issue like that because everything is beautiful.”
As a first-time visitor to Switzerland he found certain things surprising, not least the Swiss attitude to punctuality.
“In another country if you come in ten minutes after a shop is supposed to closed, they’ll help you out. But in Switzerland… it felt very punctual, it’s 12pm, that’s it, it’s closed.”
On the plus side, “in Switzerland one of the positive things is that everywhere there’s free water!”
The attitude of people he encountered along the way has been a “mixed bag” but he’s grateful for the warm welcome he received from some.
“Yesterday I came upon an Italian restaurant and as soon as I stepped in the owner heard my story and said I have to treat you lunch, it’s on me. I was really touched. It’s nice when somebody feels they want to be hospitable.”
Koza with his new friends in the Italian restaurant. Photo: Izyaslav Koza
But his favourite moment was seeing the welcome sign for Geneva, signalling that the end of his trip was near.
“When you are in a car or bus these signs don’t really mean much.. but when you are running they do,” he said.
His girlfriend flew in to meet him and he finally proposed after finishing his trip on Wednesday evening.
She said yes.
The happy couple. Photo: Izyaslav Koza