A group of bitcoin enthusiasts just ran, biked and swam across Europe, all to promote the cryptocurrency they believe is leaving a powerful, positive mark on the world.
The first “Satoshi Freeathlon” officially finished this weekend, in which a group of seven bitcoin enthusiasts flexing their athletic abilities by journeying from Switzerland’s “Crypto Valley” in the tiny city of Zug, Switzerland, to Munich, Germany – a 221 mile adventure in total.
Running purely on bitcoin donations, the loose group dubbed “Team Satoshi” embarked on the quest in an attempt to raise positive awareness of bitcoin, which even 10 years after its release as open-source software, they believe gets too much negative press in the media.
The brainchild of Vitus Zeller, a German who started the project with a 10-day adventure of his own dubbed “Tour de Satoshi,” Zeller used bitcoin to pay for his hotel stays as he biked across the country.
He told CoinDesk:
“In mainstream perception, bitcoin is mostly the money of the dark web [for buying drugs], an energy over-consuming technology or a purely speculative asset.”
Zeller’s idea was to promote the values of bitcoin, including freedom of information and privacy, in a new way. “Bitcoin needs all kinds of voices that make people get curious about it,” he said.
Meanwhile, sports spark a more rosy image. “Sports is a deeply emotional topic for humans. For thousands of years sportsmen have been admired. Emperors in ancient times as well as rulers in modern times have been using sports for political reasons,” Zeller contended.
‘Monster lake’ and beyond
Preparing for the “freeathlon” took quite a bit of time.
“We have now together many hundreds of hours of intense training for this event. I, for example, ran about each week a half marathon,” Zeller said, which is running a distance of 21 kilometers.
“The preparation meant truly a lot of going above and beyond my own personal boundaries,” he added.
But after months of training for each of the participants, they were ready for the journey. Three of the Team Satoshi crew (Zeller, as well as Moritz Biersack and Thomas Bette) slogged through all four days.
The rest of the group (including bitcoin podcast host Anita Posch, LocalBitcoins founder Jeremias Kangas, and Veronika Kuett) participated in one or more days of the event.
Day one was a mini triathalon starting with a 2 kilometer swim, followed by a mountain bike ride.
Day two was swimming across a Bodonsee, a lake where Austria, Switzerland and Germany meet, which Zeller repeatedly called a “monster.” Measuring 12 kilometers in distance, it took the crew five hours to cross.
“Crossing this monster lake […] was a crazy experience. The waves, the streams and the fact that for the longest time we didn’t even see the other side until it cleared up,” he said.
For this, it wasn’t as simple as just doing the swim. Zeller said they “needed a doctors note as well as a cold water certification to prove that we know what we are doing and can endure this large distance swim.”
Right across the lake, the team started day three by cycling 190 kilometers (about 118 miles) from Friedrichshafen to Starnberg, cities in Germany. [something about the high altitude?]
“With my 49 years of age the biggest challenge for me was keeping up with the young guys in the uphill sections. I think I managed that quite well, which is great,” said Anita Posch, bitcoin podcast host and one of the Satoshi Team.
The last day was a marathon, running and sweating all the way to Munich. They hit the pub for a welcome celebration once they crossed the finish line.
Zeller’s idea with all this is a bold one: to promote cypherpunk values, honoring those who were among the first to warn about how the internet could introduce new privacy concerns.
He refers specifically to “A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto” as a sort of guiding force – a short essay written by Eric Hughes in 1993, just a couple of years before the internet, tackling the topic of privacy.
“With Team Satoshi I had the idea to create a decentralized […] marketing instrument for bitcoin and the values it represents (freedom of information, freedom of opinion, privacy, freedom of transaction and human rights) which derive from the Cypherpunk Manifesto,” Zeller said.
It sounds like an odd idea to advocate for with sports, but Zeller makes a sincere argument for joining the two themes together.
“Sports has been a powerful political tool to manipulate the people,” he said, pointing to gladiators, who entertained Roman people with life-threatening fights. He even pointed to the Olympic games, which pits members of different nationalities against one another.
His idea is that anyone in the world can create their own Team Satoshi event: “[Anyone] can create [sports] challenges on their own,” he said, by updating the wiki website with the event.
As far-fetched as it sounds, Zeller wonders if this could morph into a profession someday: “Team Satoshi members can even try to make this a profession all over the world, if they can find sponsors or people out of the ecosystem that support them.”
“I believe Team Satoshi can potentially become a powerful movement as a soft marketing layer on top of bitcoin which connects bitcoin to the rest of the world and helps push it to mainstream adoption.”
Images via Team Satoshi