After many injuries, student and pro runner Jasmijn Lau can finally move forward

18 Apr 2024

Jasmijn Lau is no ordinary student. Every day between lectures, the professional athlete runs dozens of kilometres at the track in Heumensoord. After two years of repeated sports injuries, she’s finally back in shape and wants to prove her mettle among the best Dutch athletes.

Jasmijn Lau has already run about ten kilometres when she arrives at the photoshoot at Heumensoord. ‘I initially planned to cycle here’, she says cheerfully. ‘But then I thought: I might as well come running, that way I’ll be warmed up when I get there.’

She makes a few dashes for the photographer, with playful ease; an interesting contrast with the passing joggers, who are panting with effort and dripping in sweat, giving us some curious glances. ‘Today, I will do a simple endurance run’, Lau explains. ‘Yesterday, I had a very intense test, where I pushed myself to the limit on the treadmill.’

Jasmijn Lau. Foto: Johannes Fiebig

For the student of Biomedical Sciences, this is a day like any other. The 25-year-old combines her professional athletic career with a study programme at Radboud University; in between studying, she trains roughly twelve times per week. She went through a difficult period last year, with several harsh injuries, but now her body is finally back to normal, and she can set her sights on the future.


Big name

Lau is one of the big names set to take off at this year’s Seven Hill Record Run at Goffert Park. The goal of the contest is to break one’s personal record at the five-kilometre distance. Participants are divided based on their prospective speed. Besides Lau, Radboud alumnus and professional runner Mike Foppen will also be in attendance.

Lau aims to make it under 15 minutes and 33 seconds, she says. ‘It going to be close; I’m not a natural at this distance’, explains the long-distance specialist (starting at 10 kilometres) and the cross-country run. ‘There’s a small hill on the track, that is tough at these short distances.’

‘I remember being exhausted after the warming up’

For Lau, this competition is mainly a test to see how her body handles it. ‘I much prefer the longer distances; the longer, the better. En route, I usually tell myself how blessed I am to be able to run so far and see so many beautiful places.’

Sifan Hassan

‘I started doing track and field when I was seven’, Lau reflects. ‘I did everything until I was fourteen. Then I was asked by Honore Hoedt (national coach at the time, eds.) to come to practice at Papendal.’

‘At the first training, I was immediately told that I could run along with Sifan Hassan (multiple world champion, as well as holder of three Olympic medals, eds.). She was already a major talent at the time.’ Lau starts to laugh. ‘I remember being exhausted after the warming up. I had never run more than a lap around the track, whereas Sifan treated five kilometres as warming up. That was the end of my first training session.’

Jasmijn Lau aan het trainen in Heumensoord. Foto: Johannes Fiebig.

But despite the exhaustion, the training ignited Lau’s passion for longer distances. She kept training with Hoedt and became a European talent at a young age. In 2016, she attended the Junior European Cross-field Championship in Sardinia at seventeen years old. ‘I made fifth place, to my own astonishment; that’s when I realised I could be good at this’, she says, with appropriate pride.

Gold medal

Lau moved to Nijmegen in 2018, where she combined running with a study programme. She still trains at Papendal; almost every day, Lau takes public transit between the university and the pro sporting facilities in the woods behind Arnhem.

Lau explains that she enjoys combining her sporting- and studying careers. Not only that: she has also won her fair share of prizes in the European Championships up to 23 years. She won silver at the European Cross Country Championships in 2019, as well as at the 10.000-metre distance at the European Championships. Two years later, she won the gold medal at the 10.000 metres.

‘My life is a far cry from that of the average student, filled with drinking and parties’

She’s also raking in the study credits: she managed to obtain her bachelor’s with only six months’ delay; Lau expects the same for her master’s degree. ‘My life is a far cry from that of the average student, filled with drinking and parties. But I do have lots of friends, with whom I go out to eat or have lunch. Sometimes I go running at ‘talking speed’ and they cycle along with me. And of course, I do join the occasional night out, during the Four Days Marches or whenever I don’t have any competitions for a while.’

In 2022, Lau’s sporting career took an unexpected turn. The runner got a covid-infection that she powered through in training –against better judgment. ‘I had already qualified for the 10.000 metres at the EC in Munich; I had to go there, no matter what. But that became a traumatic experience. I couldn’t breathe at all during the contest. That was a blow to my body; my lungs were really fucked up afterward.’

Jasmijn Lau bij de jeugd EK in 2021. Foto: Bjorn Parée

Additionally, several tendon injuries in her foot kept her from running long distances. ‘I started cycling as an alternative, to keep up my physical condition. But then I fell, because -stupidly- I didn’t get out of my clickpedals fast enough. I landed right on my knee, which damaged a nerve. That bothered me for months.’

Better athlete

Since the end of 2023, Lau is steadily improving, and she is ramping up her training intensity. She has decided to start training by herself; not at Papendal, but in Heumensoord, a stone’s throw away from the university and her apartment.

Despite the setbacks, the last period has made her a better athlete, she feels. ‘I wasn’t at 100% last year, because I couldn’t do the things I wanted to. I could get frustrated whenever I felt a training was too slow or too short; it was almost childish. Now, I’m much more appreciative of the fact that I can train at all, and I listen much more closely to what my body tells me. It’s not about that one second. But that realisation required me to go through some lows.’

‘It would be a dream come true if I could attend the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles’

What does the future hold? Lau is very careful. ‘My training sessions are almost boring now; I don’t try to go the extra mile, but I try to aim for consistency. I hope to eventually count among Europe’s best.’

‘I will also have to see how I can combine my sports career with my job; I hope the two will mix well. I’m specialising as a movement scientist as part of my master’s. After my studies, I hope to be able to work as a consultant, to help encourage other people to exercise more.’

And her dreams for the future? ‘I want to focus on marathons. It’s an idea I had before the injuries that’s still in my head. And it would be a dream come true if I could attend the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.’ Lau starts to laugh, and concludes: ‘But first, let’s see me stay fit for a whole season.’

Translated by Jasper Pesch

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