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Going the distance: Martin Erl

Going the distance: Martin Erl

By CUW Athletic Communications Student Assistant Andrea Ledvina

"Whether or not I can run 100 miles, I do not know, but you can bet I am going to find out."

Concordia University Wisconsin alumni Martin Erl has caught a buzz with his recent wins in the Green Bay and Milwaukee marathons and is now a training hopeful for the USA National 100K Team in 2020.

April 2019 became a huge turning point in his life, winning the Milwaukee Marathon and breaking his personal record by more than four minutes. Running has done many things for his life and he is glad that he could find his way in life, as long as he ran. 

Some of his first memories of running go back to the time he spent with his family. One instant in particular always stuck in the back of his mind.

"My brother and I ran cross country together, but he was older than myself and in turn, I thought he was the better runner. I remember my first race in high school, less than 100 meters to go and I see my brother next to me and I wondered what would happen if I beat him. I don't remember if I did but it was a race that made me excited."

From that moment on, Erl was hooked. Erl describes his time running at Concordia as blast because his coach Russ DeLap never told him how fast he should be running. DeLap instead challenged him to see how fast Martin thought he could be.

Russ has been a faithful coach to Martin and believes that his hard work is bound to pay off.

"Martin is a highly committed runner and passionate about the sport of distance running. Since graduating from CUW, Martin has progressively trained harder and consequently, with great consistency, he has improved immensely. It has been exciting to see Martin's hard work pay off in winning big races. It has been great to see his progress and I am excited to see how much faster can he get. The relationship I have with Martin is very strong, unique and he has taught me patience and flexibility as a coach."

Two of his teammates, Kelsey Wagner and Dayton Lueck helped keep him grounded when he wanted to push himself too far. Erl was thankful for the support the two gave him throughout his career.

"Without those two I probably would have done more reckless runs. I ran my ides of running the 100 miles a week for training past Dayton often and he always said I was insane, but then he would join me. I am thankful for their help on and off the course runs."

Erl also ran in track and field to stay in season for cross country. In track, he was ranked first in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference in the one-mile and the 3,000 meter-run indoors. For outdoor track & field, he was ranked first for the 1,500 meter-run and the second-best time for the 3,000-meter steeplechase in NACC. His senior year for Track he won the 5K and 3K, receiving athlete of the meet at the NACC indoor Conference in 2014.

Erl's sophomore year is when his hard work in cross country began to pay off.  He helped the Falcons win the Northern Athletics Conference Championship, his second in his career. He competed in all seven events students can compete in at the Championships. He was able to take the sixth-fastest running time in school history, ending with his personal record of 26:26.1 at NCAA Regionals. His junior year at Concordia earned All-Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Honors with his tenth-place finish at the NAC Championships in the 8K mile-race. He had the opportunity to compete in five events at the Championships Erl's junior year. He also earned a sixth-place finish at the Wisconsin Private College Championships.

Erl graduated from CUW with a major in psychology and continued being coached by DeLap past his collegiate career. Despite DeLap's training, they would work on together, Erl continuously liked to explore the realm of the unknown. Early after college, he decided to run his first marathon, which many people thought he was insane to do with less than two weeks of training.

"I almost did not finish that first marathon. Since then I have been working harder and harder to improve my time. The complications of life go away when I run, and my ability to keep going even when I am tired is a mind-blowing cycle."

The past two years he has been in continuous training mode, doing one marathon after the other, his favorite being the ultra marathons at the moment, which is anything above 26.2 miles. Erl is currently training for the Lakefront Marathon, which runs through Concordia's campus. The end year goal for Erl is to qualify for the 100K world championships. Soon he will be running a 50-mile race in Madison, Wisconsin for the goal of being selected to join the USA World Marathon Team.

"I want to prove to others that you are enough and there are not challenges that are impossible, but simply difficult," says Erl. "I got cut from my regional team freshman year of college, now look at me."

For Erl, running is something he has had to work at but with all of his motivations both on and off the courses, he sees success in his future and afterward, maybe a pizza or two. He takes each race one stride after the other and knows that whatever happens will happen, trusting the process.

"I can always throw on my shoes and run, go at it and put my best foot forward, literally."