Race report Hamburg Marathon, 26 April 2015
When I crossed the finish line in Hamburg on this rainy Sunday afternoon, it was a perfect finish to an adventure that had started much, much earlier.
It was my fifth marathon, my third flat road marathon, but this time it was different because, for the first time, throughout all these weeks I had a “partner in crime”, Anja, to train with.
We started our marathon preparation in December 2014. It was the toughest training cycle I have ever gone through, with multiple 80-85km weeks, gruelling speed sessions (endless 1km repeats on track…), dark, windy and cold Thursday night sessions, draining long runs. There were highs and lows, injury and tiredness but together we made it!
Training went well until February/early March when I hit a bad low and couldn’t run much for 3 weeks. Thankfully, with the support and encouragement of fellow runners, I managed to recover, with 5 weeks to go until the big day. These last 5 weeks went really well, so when we stepped on the train to Hamburg on Friday afternoon, I was pretty convinced that I could run a sub-4 hour marathon for once.
We were 15 runners from our team travelling to Hamburg, including 6 “marathon virgins” and a handful of “veterans”, everyone equally excited about the big race ahead of us.
Saturday morning was quite exciting already. After roughly 2 years of being friends on Dailymile and Facebook, I was finally going to meet the famous Angel. I was a bit nervous as I had never met anyone of my “computer friends” in real life before but from the moment we met in the hotel lobby it was indeed as if we had known each other for a long time J
Anja, Jörg, Manu, Angel and I then went to collect our race bibs and visit the marathon expo (to buy some last-minute items like socks and arm sleeves). Afterwards, Anja and I changed into our running gear and Angel was kind enough to play the tour guide and show us some parts of the city on a slow and easy run.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing and carbo-loading, organizing our gear for the next day, talking everything through again, starting to get nervous…
After a relatively short night, the alarm clock rang at 5.30 a.m the next morning – marathon morning! We had a light breakfast and then packed our bags, took some last minute photos and walked to the start.
It was cloudy and rainy but not really cold and, most importantly, not too windy. I wore a singlet, shorts and arm sleeves, which turned out just fine for the race. After a couple of minutes of waiting in our start block, the clock finally went off and we started our 42.2 km journey. After weeks of tough training, the moment had finally come! Anja and I exchanged some last high-fives and off we went.
My aim was to maintain a pace of 5:30 minutes/km from the very beginning but this never happened. Slower runners blocked the way on the first kilometre and it was a constant stopping and going and running around others before everyone settled at their race pace and things were going smoothly. I got a bit too fast on the next couple of kilometres but felt really good, the crowd was cheering us on, samba groups were playing and it was so nice to just go with the flow, speeding up on the downhill sections with the hot rhythm in my ears.
I got goose bumps all over my body more than once. The best part was when we ran through a tunnel for about half a kilometre. It was dark, hot and humid and no spectators were allowed in there. All we could hear were our footsteps and breathing, which was eerie enough. Then the clapping and cheering started somewhere in the distance, it grow louder and louder, until everyone else around me was clapping and cheering as well – only us runners for us runners. A very special moment. I could have run in the tunnel forever.
After that, things got a bit tougher. I was still running close to Anja and we saw a few team mates who were running the relay standing on the side of the road, cheering and shouting our names. It gave me a boost again. May pace was still too fast at this point and I knew that I could never keep it up, so I told myself that I would slow down to 5:30 after 21 km.
However, my stomach started to feel funny at 20km already. I think it was due to the electrolyte drink I was sipping from my hand-held bottle. I had tested it before in training and also during my ultra race in September but never at a pace like this. I felt sick and a bit dizzy and all I could think of was that I didn’t want to be that girl puking on the side line. I took some water at the next aid station and felt a bit better but I knew that I had to slow down if I wanted to finish this race.
I lost sight of Anja but passed two team mates with whom I exchanged a few words. After that, I concentrated on myself and the blue line only. One step after another, one kilometre after another. At kilometre 32 I knew that I would make it sub 4 hours if I didn’t start to walk. A lot of people were stopping and walking at this point. But the spectators were brilliant, they were shouting words of encouragement, cheering us on, carrying us to the finish line.
4 kilometres to go. My legs were getting really heavy. I started to check my watch every 500 metres.
2 kilometres to go, and it felt like forever. I wanted to walk so badly... 1 kilometre to go and lots of cheering from the side line. Then the finish line was in sight, with music blasting from the loud speakers. I speeded up a bit and crossed it with a smile, 3 hours, 53 minutes and 23 seconds after we had started this race an eternity earlier.
And what a spectacular race it had been! It took a while, a walk back to the hotel and a long shower, until I realized what a great success it had been – I improved my previous marathon PR of 4 hours and 7 minutes by 14 minutes and managed to run a full marathon without walking for the first time ever.
Anja returned to the hotel half an hour later, she had run her first marathon in an impressive 3 hours and 50 minutes! We hugged and laughed and cheered J
We checked the results of our team mates and everyone had managed a sub 4 hour marathon! Including the marathon virgins ;)
Then I met Angel who had also achieved a massive new sub 3 hour PR! Simply amazing!
After some rest, the whole team met for dinner later. Everyone was hurting but happy, and we all agreed: Hamburg was definitely worth it!!
Thank you so much everyone who supported me during the last couple of weeks – team mates and “computer friends”. You know who you are and I owe this PR to you. Things were tough at times but with your support and encouragement, I managed to overcome these obstacles. ! I love you all – big hugs! <3
Now it is time to relax and eat and relax and eat, before the next training cycle starts in June. Here’s to new adventures!