The Hamburg Marathon 2017 is history. For some at least. In my case, it will always stay in my memory as the first marathon, where I ran sub 2:40h. So far, it has definitely been my best race ever. During the preparation, I was actually fed up with long runs and wasn't really looking forward to such a long distance. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. In the following paragraphs, I would like to take you with me on my marathon journey through Hamburg.
I'm still a bit in a disbelief about my performance at the Hamburg Marathon on Sunday. Breaking my half marathon PB four weeks prior gave me the confidence regarding my speed, but due to quite a low mileage and just four 30+ runs, everything after 30-35k was going to be a big surprise to me. Running in such cold and wet conditions didn't really boost my confidence achieving my goal of running a sub 2:40h.
Staying closely to the start, I ran to the start area - obviously also to keep warm as it was very chilly. At the bag drop-off I ran into Moritz auf der Heide, who was waiting for Eric who he was going to pace. We postponed the undressing and drop-off as long as possible due to the cold weather. About 25 min to the start we went to the starting block, running into a couple of friends. I was shivering due to the cold.
As always, the queue in front of the loos was long, which meant that I only entered the starting block about 8 min prior to the starting shot. No warm up. I could feel the tension from the other runners. Damn, I missed this feeling badly. Small local or regional races are simply not the same. Together with Henrik and Dennis, who wanted to pace me, I waited for the gun to be shot.
When the starting gun was shot, the masses of runners went off. Each individual runner on his own journey. My journey started surprisingly smooth. At the back of the first starting block I simply followed the runners in front of me. It actually felt too easy and I thought we were going out too slow. But we didn’t. We actually went out a bit faster than planned. Unfortunately, Henrik and I lost Dennis right at the start. To make matters worse it started to rain about 500m into the race. Wait, did I say rain? Very quickly it changed into hail! While I was telling Henrik that I probably have to hand in a doctor’s note tomorrow, another runner next to us joked that others are paying for a cosmetic peeling.
Luckily it stopped quite soon and the conditions got better. The 5km (18:50min) as well as the 10km mark (37:20min) passed by as if we didn’t even start yet. It just felt great, especially as the sun came out a little bit and the spectators at the Landungsbrücken pushed me a lot. Henrik told me, that he’ll get a leash next time, as I was running faster and faster. We reduced the pace slightly, knowing that we didn’t even pass the half marathon mark. The lap around the Binnenalster was awesome and even the weather seemed to clear up. At 1:18:42h into the race we passed the half marathon mark. Just now I slightly felt my calves getting tired.
In addition to my calves getting tired the weather did turn to our bad again. It started raining slightly and the sun was entirely gone from this moment. My hands got cold again as well. But Henrik and I didn’t care that much about it and pursued our goal. We even increased the pace again until the 25km mark (1:33:11h). I noticed, that Henrik got more and more tired and told him to run in my slipstream. So did other runners as well and I led our train for the next 10km. One runner passed us, as we slightly decreased our pace, some runners dropped off.
Similar to my half marathon four weeks before, running in the wind made me stronger. Especially, as I didn’t feel any more signs of fatigue apart from the constant, but low-leveled, tiredness of my calves. After about 36km, I was suddenly running roughly three meters in front of Henrik. He shouted, that I shall slow down a bit as I was unconsciously increasing the pace once again. Unfortunately for him, I understood, that I shall go and run as he wasn’t able to keep up the pace.
His bad was my luck. I was flying away as I would have forgotten something on the stove, whereas my sudden disappearing resulted in a mental breakdown for Henrik. Looking at my and seeing all the runners in front of me coming closer and closer I couldn’t believe what pace I was running but not feeling fatigue at all. I just ran. Additionally, on this last section, there were also most of my friends, who told me be cheering along the course, waiting. I passed runner after runner, including many elite women. Obviously, additionally to the cheering spectators, this pushed me a lot as well. All this resulted in my fastest 5km split of the entire race. By far! The official watch said 17:42min for the kilometers between 36 to 40.
Looking back, unfortunately, I didn’t have a glimpse at my watch. Otherwise, I might have realized that maybe even the sub 2:37h would have been possible. But anyway, I did run far better than I could ever imagine before the race and I’m more than happy about it! Running the last 100m on the red carpet, framed by two big stands to the left and right full of cheering spectators, was simply amazing. I crossed the finish line of the second biggest marathon in Germany as 68th in total, 60th man, 18th German and 17th in my age category. What else can I, who started running only five years ago and just improved his marathon PB by exactly 5:30min, ask for?
In my preparation for this marathon I changed a few things compared to the preparation prior to my previous personal best marathon. Feel free to check out how I trained and which 5 key lessons I extracted from my marathon training.