MA RA TH ON Challenge 2020

At Merkle we have some avid runners who want to compete or just have fun while running. But not so much in recent times since in-person events as you know them were all pretty much cancelled and we went to work out of our home offices

Running a Marathon together apart but #RunAsOne Team

Random fact: that’s the time the era of “DIY Coronathons” and “Backyard Ultras” started.

A couple of weeks ago during our daily stand-up between us leads of the Service Line “Platform Solutions” we discussed our running efforts from the home office: some of us run very regularly, some very steady, and some even just started running.

The Plan

And then there was the announcement of the Strava “MA RA TH ON” Challenge. On June 6th & 7th, a team of four, each one of them running 10.5 km, together doing a full 42.2 km Marathon.

Fun fact: sponsor of the challenge is “NN Running Team”, having the fastest long distance runners under contract who would also be part of the virtual race. So like in a real Marathon, we toe’d the line with the big shots. 

Long story short. We signed up. Since Michael was on vacation, the team had to be Benedikt, Jens, Thomas and Markus. And we got a cheesy name for our team as well: MERKLE FLATFORM REVOLUTION LEADS (yeah, aka Merkle Platform Solution Leads).

Ready. Set. Go.

(Sorry, there is no TL;DR - running a Marathon deserves the full attention and experience of every participant. So let’s see where, when and how this #RunAsOne Marathon went in chronological order.)

Markus (in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland)

Finisher beim Namics Marathon

Since I came up with the idea of doing the challenge and acting as team captain I also wanted to get my part done as soon as possible to motivate the rest of the team. With rain and wind in the forecast, and not being a “sprinter” but preferring the longer distances I still wanted to run fast. I decided for a net downhill course on forest trails and roads.

No starting gun, just me and my Garmin. And off I went.

The first 4k went really smooth, going down zig-zag along forest trails in my “backyard”, so I clocked some very nice splits. Ha, that will be a piece of cake. 40% done.

Once turning West for kilometers five and six things got tougher: flat course, but quite strong headwinds! My legs already decided to start screaming, but luckily I was half way through and no more trails but only roads ahead which should make things easier. With another downhill coming up I was really ready for some “rest”. 60% done.

The next section went by quickly, but the downhill was not relaxing at all. Mentaly I was preparing for the final sufferfest. 80% done.

Strava Markus

At 8k it was time to turn into headwinds again, before the final stretch should give me some relief with a nice tailwind. And it was time to think about the additional 500m, since a quarter Marathon is not done after 10k. Haha… 2 more Minutes suffering (for the team).

And then I was done! 100% done.

No finish line, no cheering fans, no medal. Just me and my Garmin - with a very satisfying time in the end.

And now super curious how the rest of the team would do.

Thomas (in Fulda, Germany)

Strava Thomas

I have to confess that my running form is quite ok-ish this year. Thanks to Covid-19 I was able to run more than I usually do, over 600k ytd. 10k should not be a problem. Hence, my plan was to take the opportunity of this MA RA TH ON event for a form check. I went to a nearby track, did one round of warm-up, and lined up like for an olympic 10’000m final.

Ready-set-go: 26 ½ rounds. Really special weather conditions: first 3k sunny, then 3k light rain, 1k heavy rain, and 3½k sunny again. As always, when I want to run fast, I go for 90s pop-punk (Green Day, Offspring, etc.). Result was good - my fastest 10k split since over 2 years, #yeah. Thanks Markus for motivating us, this pseudo-official event really helped. PS: Also as always, some solid sore muscles 2 days later, but worth it ;-) 

Jens (in Rödermark, Germany)

Strava Jens

It was a beautiful afternoon at the end of May, when in our Platform Leads Chat the message popped up "New Challenge, are you taking part? Everyone runs 10.5 km and together it will be a marathon". I grin into myself and think "Oh Markus - got the wrong chat window?". But in the next daily it becomes clear that this was not the case and that the question is meant seriously.

I am a burned child when it comes to colleagues from Switzerland encouraging me to do sports. I remember only too clearly the year 2018, it was September and the entire Merkle was back in Ampflwang for the bi-annual global meeting, where, in addition to professional exchanges, physical exercise was also firmly anchored in the programme. My colleague Ben asked me at lunch in a subordinate clause "Jens, are you actually running?” In retrospect, I'm sure that the question sounded very similar to Hannibal Lecter's voice in my ears and that should have warned me. What shall I say -  I was naive… so I agreed to take a run. Now you have to know that I grew up north of the “Weißwurstäquator” in Wachenbuchen and the highest elevation was the Hühnerberg with 197 m above sea level and I can't remember ever having "climbed" it voluntarily. Long story short: Jogging with 4 Swiss colleagues in the Austrian “mountains” has shaped my life.

But men are men: they don't learn from their mistakes. The advantage of the new challenge was - from my point of view - that I could choose the course of the route, so I thought “you can make it” and accepted. In the following dailies the topic came up from time to time and we talked about running shoes and lap-times. I learnt e.g. that you can also add the shoe in the tracked runs on your Garmin. I had no idea which shoe I even had. I hoped that it was a "Speedy 3000" or a "Gestiefelter Kater 2.0" - after research I found out - it is a ""Munich 3"". Well, luckily for me it was not the old models 1 or 2 - they would have slowed me down for sure.

Maybe it was the nervousness that woke me up at 6am on Sunday morning, but the fresh morning air pushed me over the 10.5 km as if it was a walk to the bakery. Exhausted but satisfied with the time I had achieved I really went to the bakery and woke up the kids for breakfast and family time.

Note to myself: "At the next sport request of a Swiss colleague just think - think and remember." 

I'm sure I won't take that to heart … again - but I really loved the team accomplishment :)

Benedikt (in Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Strava Ben

Running is my fallback sport: I do it if no other options are available. But even then I struggle to put my shoes on and hit the tracks. My ambitious plans to turn the Corona months into running season failed miserably. Despite my struggling relationship with running, I was immediately in when my colleagues asked to join the MA RA TH ON challenge. It has been a long time since we did something non job related together. And a group race might be a good reason to finally start my Corona running training. However, when the time came for training rounds I found many reasons to postpone them. The weather was too warm or too cold. My last bike ride was too close. Or I just had dinner. When I finally did my test run the weekend before the MA RA TH ON I got lost in the city after 3 kilometers. I did not dare to publish it on Strava. 

When the MA RA TH ON race day finally arrived I was much more excited than expected. I ate a modest breakfast, two Bananas and I tied my new shoes. The ones I bought at the beginning of Corona as a motivation to start a running career. With a delay of three months the shoes finally were put to their intended use.  I started slowly. My goal was to continuously run at a pace slightly below 06:00 minutes per kilometer. After one kilometer I noticed that I can do faster than that. I aimed for 05:30 per kilometer. It was surprisingly easy to keep that up. It was my first run in Amsterdam and running seems to be a different sport when there are no altitude meters involved. I pushed it further. I reached a 05:15 pace. Tough, but feasible. And I had already done half of the 10.50 kilometers. I pushed it more. Aiming for 05:00. My muscles started soring. Three kilometers left. I can do it. Pushing it. Running like a madman among all the sunday joggers in the park. I can finish the challenge below one hour. My mind focused on moving the legs and checking my watch. And there it was: my watch showed 10.5 kilometers. I felt like an Olympic athlete. But there was no stadium. No cheering colleagues. No speaker announcing my time. And despite being far away from each other I felt close to my colleagues. Connected in spirit and through Strava to their struggles on the way to 10.5 kilometers. I am hooked. My Corona running ambitions are back. Maybe it could be much more than a fallback sport.

The Result

Together we did great, finishing our Marathon challenge in a total of 3:12:05 hrs. This results in an impressive 557th place for the men's ranking, and an awesome top 1000 finish overall (976nd). Numbers are based on Stava’s final leaderboard, showing 52’501 finishers (out of 106’388 participants) or 13’125 teams - so we are in the top 8%. Wow, we really did #RunAsOne!

The Team


Jens Lauer: 5:33 min/km

Benedikt Vogel: 5:05 min/km

Markus Tressl: 3:54 min/km

Thomas Walter: 3:46 min/km

Some other guys...

Kenenisa Bekele: 3:08 min/km

Kilian Jornet Burgada: 3:03 min/km

Eliud Kipchoge: 3:00 min/km

Julien Wanders: 2:53 min/km

Geoffrey Kamworor: 2:51 min/km


And even the big shots get out of breath - like us :-)