How running a marathon improves your business skills

In August 2015, Alexander Brunst and Sebastian Kloss co-founded the catering startup CATERWINGS, which is backed by Rocket Internet. CATERWINGS is a marketplace connecting caterers and businesses, offering convenient and flexible food deliveries for groups of people. Currently, the startup operates in London and serves customers such as Burberry and Morgan Stanley. Apart from being co-founders and managing directors, Alexander and Sebastian have another thing in common: both are passionate marathon runners. This year, they were able to fulfill their dream of participating in major marathons in New York City and Berlin. While preparing for this challenge, Alexander and Sebastian realised that getting ready for a marathon has striking similarities with building a successful startup. Here are their top learnings.

1. Make a plan and stick to it.

Building a successful startup requires a detailed business plan which includes a thorough analysis of the market and the competitors as well as realistic goals and how to reach them. The same applies to preparing for a marathon. Instead of just starting to exercise, one should make a plan that consists of different types of practise, nutrition, and goals to reach along the way.

2. Work as a team.

Having a partner at your side is a real motivation and performance boost. When training for a marathon, practicing with a running partner can bring out the best of you, as you are constantly being challenged and feel the competition. As co-founders, however, Alexander and Sebastian can rely on each other to give honest feedback and make important business decisions together.

3. Set two goals.

Experienced runners recommend to set two goals for race day: the first for a good day, where everything goes as planned, and another in case something does not go as anticipated. “No marathon will be perfect, there are just too many things that could go wrong: it could be raining or you don’t feel as fit as usual. For these cases, you need the backup goal to stay motivated.

This is a valuable learning for building a business: it is very seldom the case that everything works out without any obstacles along the way. Thus, preparing a worst-case scenario next to the best-case one, will give you a push of perseverance for when things aren’t going as smooth as wanted.

4. Be ambitious.

Even though you should prepare mentally for a realistic outcome, it is essential to be ambitious and to believe in what you can do. “You will only be able to really perform and to surprise yourself when you set the bar high”, says Sebastian. This goes for business as well as running: creating challenging goals will make you go the extra mile and less likely to give up along the way.

5. Communicate and listen.

Pay attention to the signals you are receiving. “Listening to your body is extremely important when training for a marathon”, emphasises Alexander. “If something hurts or you feel like you’ve caught a cold, take a break or do more gentle exercises such as swimming. If you push through it, chances are high that the injury will develop further.”

Comparatively, as a young company, it is very helpful to regularly ask customers for feedback. They are the ones your product is aimed at and might have constructive tips you should consider.

6. Endurance is crucial.

Neither preparing for and running a marathon nor founding a startup is a walk in the park. However hard it may seem at times, and that will definitely happen, try to not lose motivation and patience.” Whether it is not reaching the set goal for a route section or not being able to fix every bug on the website at once, finding ways to unwind can help with clearing your head and coming up with new strength to tackle any challenge.

7. Last but not least: enjoy it.

“It is really important to not lose sight of the bigger picture”, states Sebastian. “Don’t let it get you down if your business is not the next Google or you don’t turn out to be the new Usain Bolt.” What matters is that you had to courage to start this madness, and whatever happens, the experience will teach you and make you stronger for the next challenge ahead.

As ambitious athletes often are, overcoming one challenge is only the beginning of tackling another. Therefore, after having succeeded with the marathon, the next goal of Alexander and Sebastian is turning CATERWINGS into a record speed company.


Bianka Wittmann

RCKT. Rocket Communications

Charlottenstr. 60 I 10117 Berlin

Telephone: +49 152 015 89310


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About Rocket Internet

About Rocket Internet

Rocket Internet incubates and invests in Internet companies with proven business models. It provides operational support to its companies and helps them scale internationally. Rocket Internet focuses predominantly on four industry sectors of online and mobile retail and services that make up a significant share of consumer spending: Food & Groceries, Fashion, General Merchandise and Home & Living. Rocket Internet’s selected companies are active in a large number of countries around the world with more than 28,000 employees. Rocket Internet SE is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (ISIN DE000A12UKK6, RKET). For further information please visit