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Daily press, 2019-09-02, 10:00 AM

“Giving up isn’t an alternative”

1,000 runners from all age groups, 232 vertical meters, 1,390 steps. Germany’s highest tower run at the thyssenkrupp test tower will for the first time be part of the German Tower Running Championships. Ahead of the event we spoke with our thyssenkrupp colleague Marcel Pieper (28) and his running mate Patrick Raapke (30) about their participation in thyssenkrupp’s toughest tower run.

When roughly 1,000 runners take part in the tower run at the thyssenkrupp test tower in Rottweil in September, many of them will be aiming to beat their personal best, achieve a good finishing place, pick up a finisher’s medal, maybe even come 1st. What would a championship tower run be without top performances? But for thyssenkrupp employee Marcel Pieper (28) and his running mate Patrick Raapke (30), that won’t be so important on the day. They just want to get to the top of the tower as a team – however long it takes. They are taking the same approach to their run as to their work with Dortmund’s volunteer fire service, where the golden rule is: No-one goes it alone.

What gave you the idea of taking part in the Rottweil tower run?

Pieper: Last August we took part in the Cologne Tower Run through the fire service – 714 steps, 39 floors. Then I heard about the thyssenkrupp tower run at work – I’m a technician at the thyssenkrupp Electrical Steel cold rolling mill in Gelsenkirchen – and I immediately decided to take on the challenge. And that’s how we ended up going to Rottweil fairly spontaneously last year.

Running or jogging – how do you train?

Pieper: For one thing we never prepare as well as we plan to at the start. And another thing is that I don’t go running or jogging very often. Tower running is an alternative I can cope with better. If there’s time, after work I drive with colleagues from fire truck 18 at the volunteer fire department to the Math Tower at Dortmund Technical University. It’s ten stories high, has “only” 242 steps, and the people there are kind enough to let us use it to prepare for the tower run. That gives us the chance to train wearing our firefighting gear.

What’s training like with your colleagues?

Pieper: We run up the stairs in the Math Tower several times to simulate the 1,390 steps at the thyssenkrupp test tower – wearing uniform and breathing apparatus. The “light pack” weighs 20 kilos, with additional gear when we’re out on call you can easily be carrying 30 to 40 kilograms.

You’re participating in the thyssenkrupp tower run with your firefighting colleague Patrick Raapke. Why?

Pieper: Team spirit is crucial to everything firefighters do. We’re not interested in personal bests, just getting through it together – both out on call and on tower runs.

Wouldn’t you be much faster if you ran alone?

Pieper: Maybe. But maybe I wouldn’t make it to the finish on my own! Last year in Rottweil we really pushed each other …

Raapke: … yeah, by looking out for each other, giving each other encouragement and taking the odd breather we somehow managed …

Pieper: … to get to the top together. For us it would be out of the question to leave the other behind and run on alone. We’d never start out as a team and then compete individually. The firefighter mentality is too strongly ingrained in us for that: We look out for each other. So whether it’s a tower run or a fire call-out: Giving up before you’ve reached your goal just isn’t an alternative!

Raapke: I would never do a tower run on my own.

How much does taking responsibility for each other bind you together as a two-man team?

Pieper: More than in any other area of life. Of course in the fire service we have to be able to work well with everyone in the team – after all, we’re dealing with extreme situations. But no-one knows you better than your direct team buddy. They know your limits, your stress resistance, your emotional resilience on particularly difficult jobs. That’s important, because you have to be able to trust each other blindly and agree on a course of action in seconds. I would never go out on a firefighting job with someone I didn’t trust.

Raapke: Mutual trust is really crucial. When we’re on a call-out I have to know that my crew mate will watch my back and help me out in dicey situations.

Pieper: That all sounds very serious, so let me also say that it’s just more fun achieving something together than alone.

How frequently do you work for the fire service in your free time?

Pieper: I started 13 years ago, and the very first call-outs showed me it was the right decision to join the fire service. I’ve been a volunteer ever since. Every two weeks we meet from 3 to 7 p.m. for practice drills. Then there are the real call-outs. Last year our fire truck 18 from the Dortmund volunteer fire department was called out 121 times. It’s not always just putting out fires or providing assistance; we’re also called out as first responders to support the rescue services. For me, it’s just a great feeling to be able to help.

What are your feelings ahead of your second tower run in Rottweil?

Raapke: I’m looking forward to the feeling of joy when you get to the top …

Pieper: … yeah, that moment when you start up the last flight of stairs and you can suddenly see the light! I was really glad to get there last time. For 2019 our aim is to be at least 1 second faster than last year. How long did it take us?

Raapke: It took us 27:50 minutes last year – nowhere near the best times, but that’s not what motivates us. As soon as we crossed the finishing line we knew we had to do it again this year. It wasn’t until much later that we realized we’d just completed the highest tower run in Western Europe.