Over the past three decades, the Lewandowskis have been at each other's side – brothers in arms, come what may.

Marcin Lewandowski’s first races were not on a track, and they weren’t even against kids his own age. Instead they were against his brother, Tomasz, sprinting up 11 flights of stairs to their family’s apartment in their hometown of Police, Poland.

Tomasz was six years older, already an accomplished athlete, so all Marcin knew in those early years was defeat, not that it ever discouraged him.

Little did they know, but the athletic journey the brothers began on those steps would eventually lead them to three world finals, three European titles, and an Olympic final.

For the past 16 years, they have been more than just brothers; they have been coach and athlete, or, as Marcin puts it, “I’m the car and he is the driver”.

In the upper echelons of elite sport, such an arrangement is rare, perhaps for obvious reasons given how often brothers fall out. Tomasz, however, insists his younger brother has always been the perfect protégé.

“Marcin has an iron will to win,” he says. “He is very patient and knows nothing is for free. He is stubborn and does not give up. I know exactly what he had to go through to get there and I guarantee that not many people could handle it.”

Marcin admits the relationship can occasionally become strained, but deep down knows his big brother always has his best interests at heart.

“I have to follow what he says, even if I don’t like it,” he says. “I respect him. He used sport as a tool to prepare me for adult life, to not just make me a good athlete but also a good man.”

If you need evidence of that, consider this past indoor season.

Running for a cause

In truth, Marcin had no plans to compete after missing a month of training in January through illness. However, he was soon told about Zuzi Wachowicz, a one-year-old Polish girl suffering from a life-threatening heart condition that required a series of expensive surgeries.

To raise funds for Wachowicz, Lewandowski decided to enter a 1500m race at the Copernicus Cup in Torun. He finished second in 3:38.24, a result that made him think a tilt at the European Indoors in Belgrade was back on the cards. 

“I ran for her,” says Marcin. “Everything I earned there I gave to her. It was special feeling to use the power of athletics to collect money to help save her life. She is alive and safe now after surgery.”

He has continued the fundraising efforts in recent weeks, auctioning off t-shirts signed by a phalanx of athletics stars to keep the funds rolling in for Wachowicz. At the European Indoors, the good karma came back around as Lewandowski sprinted to victory in the 1500m.