First-ever Airport Marathon

The fastest way
to Tokyo

In 2020, the world was turned upside down. Corona drastically changed everyday life as we knew it. The pandemic affected everyone: we worked at home, could not visit our families and were massively afraid of getting sick or infecting others. All of us had one mission: to make sure we crossed the finish line safe and healthy.

The sports world also suffered. Because of corona, almost no sporting events went ahead. For marathon runners, it meant that the finish line, which they normally rush towards at a blistering pace, now remained out of sight for a long time. While running was possible for many of them, a lap around the church was not enough to qualify for the one event that matters most: the Olympics.

Ticket to Tokyo
Those Olympics were scheduled for the summer of 2021. To win a ticket, athletes have to run an olympic limit. For men, that limit in Tokyo was 2:11:30, for women 2:28:30.

Visual for campaign NN Mission Marathon
Finish photo at NN Mission Marathon
Runners at NN Mission Marathon on Twente Airport
Big group of runners at the NN Mission Marathon

In addition, the requirement is that this time must have been run during an approved qualifying event. However, the big problem was that these events had hardly taken place due to corona.

So in early 2021, NN Running Team decided to take control. The plan? To organise its own officially recognised marathon. Under the name NN Mission Marathon, the team started organising. With the promise 'The fastest way to Tokyo', they gave athletes the chance to fulfil their olympic dream after all. How unique this is, is shown by the fact that in 'normal' years, there are only eight marathons where athletes can qualify for the Olympics.

Flying battleground
Hamburg was chosen as the venue of the Mission Marathon. The only major marathon of that spring would start in this German city on 11 April. The key word here being 'would'. A week before it was due, the German authorities decided to go into lockdown. With that, all the careful preparation work disappeared in one fell swoop.

But the Mission Marathon had a mission. And that mission did not disappear into the dustbin. In all haste, the organisation searched for a new location. They found it at Twente Airport in Enschede. With just one week's delay, more than 70 top athletes appeared at the start line on 18 April 2021 to secure their ticket to Tokyo.

Worldwide audience
Thanks in part to the presence of the crème de la crème of the running world, the NN Mission Marathon managed to attract a large audience worldwide on that day. Via the livestream on NN Running Team's YouTube channel, hundreds of thousands of people are watching the athletes qualify for the Olympics. 

Capital Sports is responsible for setting up this stream, as well as for coming up with the name, slogan and campaign associated with this event. Not only that: the design - from the finish flag to the bib numbers - was also created by us. A unique assignment for an event that has never been organised in this way before.

Viewers along the line and on YouTube soon saw Eliud Kipchoge running in the leading group. Although the king of the marathon had already got his ticket, he decided to participate to test his body and mind. In Enschede, he once again showed why he deserves all the praise: in 2 hours, 4 minutes and 30 seconds, he crossed the finish line first. Once again, he sets a time no one else can match.

Royal achievements
Over two minutes later, number 2 crosses the finish line: Kipchoge's Kenyan compatriot Jonathan Korir. Number 3 is again almost two minutes behind. With a time of 2:08:07, Eritrean Goitom Kifle is the last athlete to enter the podium. Among the women, Katharina Steinruck runs a time of 2:25:59. Sara Moreira (2:26:42) and Rabea Schöneborn (2:27:03) complete the women's top three.

A total of 25 athletes managed to qualify for the Olympics at the Mission Marathon. Cheering, they crossed the finish line. Extra special: never before has a single running event allowed so many athletes to fulfil their dreams. Mission Marathon's promise to offer 'the fastest way to Tokyo' was thus more than fulfilled.

About NN Running Team

Not so long ago, running was an individual sport. Until NN Running Team changed that in 2017. Former athlete Jos Hermens decided that long-distance and marathon runners are stronger as a team, and founded the world's first professional running team. In doing so, he started a revolution.

Soon, top athletes like Eliud Kipchoge, Kenenisa Bekele and Abdi Nageeye joined the team. With such names, of course, success was just a matter of time. In recent years, NN Running Team was able to win many marathons, olympic 5,000, and 10,000 metres and set multiple world records. The top performances follow each other in rapid succession.

Capital Sports was involved in this successful project from the start. Together with Global Sports Communication, we ensure that not only runners are ahead in their races, but that the marketing also outshines the competition. Together, we bind and captivate fans around the world.

The goal of NN Running Team is to further professionalise the running sport. This increases its attractiveness to fans and sponsors. This professionalisation is also reflected in the communication. Through campaigns, websites, apps and activations, we are increasing the fan base to boost NN Running Team, the fans and the athletes.

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