Hamburg Marathon: Celebrating a Sub-3 Race on Home Turf

Published on 14th of May
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Every time I run this race in my home city it gets better.

Hamburg Marathon was my first marathon race ever. In 2010 I reached the finish line after 4:51:30 hours in what would significantly change my life’s path. There are countless amazing experiences I have had just because of that single day. The struggle, the blisters, the black toenails, and the limp I’ve had for days afterwards were offset a thousand fold.

It’s a classic example of the butterfly effect. The impact such a simple activity can have! It’s just putting one foot in front of the other for a few hours, but it has enriched my life in so many ways over a timespan that is now almost exactly 14 years long. So many things have happened since then. First and foremost I got married to Sophie, who, by the way, jumped out of the crowd onto the marathon race course to support me on the hardest last few kilometers back in 2010 before being pulled out by security. Together we now have four daughters, the oldest of them being 12 already. I have run 86 races of marathon distance or longer, completed four iron distance triathlons and dozens of shorter ones and other races, and founded and sold three separate companies in the meantime. I’ve also become significantly better at running.

There’s quite a lot you can accomplish if you give it your focus for a whole decade. Even, and especially so, if you’re not great at it to begin with. So the goals I’ve set for myself increased in difficulty over the years.

When setting the goal back in 2020 to one day run a marathon in less than three hours, an unthinkable idea back in 2010, it was implied that it had to be at Hamburg Marathon. My first big push towards it was in 2022, where I reached the finish line after 3:00:40 hours. I knew I had it in me, just a few tiny factors were apparently off. The year after, my efforts failed for other reasons, but at the beginning of 2024 I was laser-focused on reaching that finish line faster than ever before.

So focused, in fact, that I prematurely accomplished it seven weeks before Hamburg Marathon at a race in southern Germany, Bienwald Marathon in Kandel at the beginning of March. A flat and easy race which allowed me to stop running after just 2:58:44 hours. Training had been great, everything came together nicely that day, so there’s that. Done.

Did it really count, though?

Technically, yes. The Bienwald Marathon race course is officially certified. But in my mind, I wanted to confirm the effort at home, at my beloved Hamburg Marathon. I wanted to prove that it wasn’t just a fluke due to the advantageously easy Kandel route. I want to run fast in front of family and friends at a world-stage event, not just in some remote woods few have even heard of – no disrespect to the Bienwald people.

Also, I really enjoy running and run training. Weirdly, I feel like I need to explicitly state that from time to time, because I know a bunch of people who would have just scrapped my original plan after the successful race and went back to other activities. I am not one of those. I run for running’s sake.

And there was an additional job do be done. My good friend and regular training partner Mathias, who is currently preparing for his first iron distance triathlon at Challenge Roth in July, the greatest triathlon race ever, was on trajectory to break three hours in the marathon as well. So I was able to make this partly about him and try to become so fit I can almost easily pace him to reach that goal of his while simultaneously bringing my Sub-3 in Hamburg plan to its conclusion.

🔄 The Continued Training

I’ve explained my successful training regiment in detail in the Bienwald Marathon blog post, if you’d like to know how to train to make Sub-3 possible. After the race, I intended to basically just keep going for the next seven weeks until Hamburg, because it obviously worked really well for me and I didn’t feel like I had overtrained and needed a break.

Recovery of that marathon took a few days, naturally, and I had the awesome Schweriner Seentrail ultramarathon planned for the weekend after. It is 61 kilometers / 38 miles long and was beautiful. I ran it slowly and carefully.

Start line selfie with Kathrin and Matthias, the two winners of last year’s BremenSanktPauli 100-Miler
Start line selfie with Kathrin and Matthias, the two winners of last year’s BremenSanktPauli 100-Miler

The week after, everything was back to normal and each week looked more or less like the following.

As the weather improved, the weekend long runs turned even more enjoyable
As the weather improved, the weekend long runs turned even more enjoyable
I’m still focused on eating mostly plants and that certainly also had a beneficial impact on my improvements
I’m still focused on eating mostly plants and that certainly also had a beneficial impact on my improvements

Like before Bienwald Marathon, I again increased the amount of three-minute intervals over the weeks from 6 over 7 to 8.

Doing those intervals with friends, like here with Mathias who just did his fastest intervals ever, helps a lot in getting through the tough minutes at near maximum effort
Doing those intervals with friends, like here with Mathias who just did his fastest intervals ever, helps a lot in getting through the tough minutes at near maximum effort
Long and easy runs with buddies are still on the table (Philipp and Rasmus)
Long and easy runs with buddies are still on the table (Philipp and Rasmus)
On a trip to London I used the opportunity to plan and run a 32k / 20mi route along all the sights
On a trip to London I used the opportunity to plan and run a 32k / 20mi route along all the sights
While my daughters preferred riding the double decker buses in the top front seats
While my daughters preferred riding the double decker buses in the top front seats

To do some of the “race pace” training which I deem less important, I had a half marathon in southern Hamburg lined up which I intended to race to my maximum abilities. Half marathons are perfect for it, because they don’t nearly put as much strain on the body as full ones do and allow you to recover rather quickly. It’s the optimum distance to train for it.

My training worked so great, Wilhelmsburger Insellauf on April 7th exceeded even my own expectations. I hoped to finish in about 1:24 to 1:25 hours, which would have been a big personal best, but that day everything fit together so perfectly, I came in 12th place out of 641 male finishers, after a massive personal best of 1:22:01 hours.

I swear it was a hard effort despite my easy-going smile and vacation shirt!
I swear it was a hard effort despite my easy-going smile and vacation shirt!
My friend Karsten was again a bit faster than me but unfortunately missed the podium this time
My friend Karsten was again a bit faster than me but unfortunately missed the podium this time
And for optimum recovery, Sophie and I had a few conversational pace runs together
And for optimum recovery, Sophie and I had a few conversational pace runs together

So I just kept going with this proven well-working plan, except for one key session on the weekend after that race, two weeks before Hamburg Marathon. The dreaded race pace infused long run my friend Mathias likes to put up high in his list of priorities. These haven’t worked out well for me in the past, draining me of too much energy, but since I was on a high I decided to join in on the fun this time. We did four sets of 5 km / 3 mi, each a little faster than race pace 4:15 min/km / 6:50 min/mi. With warm-up, cool-down, and a bit of jogging in between sets, that added up to a 32 km / 20 mi long run. I have to admit, it felt amazing afterwards. Big runner’s high for the whole rest of the day. But I think that, again, this effort took nearly as much energy from me as a long race would have, making it harder and less effective to do quality speed workouts the week after. Learned the lesson.

Philipp, on the right, unfortunately injured himself at home a few days later and had to cancel Hamburg Marathon
Philipp, on the right, unfortunately injured himself at home a few days later and had to cancel Hamburg Marathon

Race week started off well with another good three-minute intervals session, but I stumbled into a big energy low starting Wednesday. It had other factors which I wasn’t able to pinpoint, but I saw a real problem coming up Sunday. Where do I get my energy back quickly?

My best idea was trying to sleep a lot, getting into bed right after my little kids. It somewhat worked, but it was a close call. Even on Saturday, the day before the race, I didn’t feel fully ready and at one hundred percent when I accompanied my oldest to her “Zehntel” race, which is a race for school kids who do one tenth of the marathon distance.

There’s no better way than still taking on the challenge and doing your best under the circumstances and with the cards you’re dealt, so let’s do this!

My fitness level definitely reached new heights over the course of this training cycle, so the basic situation is favorable
My fitness level definitely reached new heights over the course of this training cycle, so the basic situation is favorable
And here you have the full overview of what exact training led to the VO2max curve’s improvement
And here you have the full overview of what exact training led to the VO2max curve’s improvement
The complete Sub-3 in Hamburg group we started back in September of last year: Rasmus, (me), Mathias, Philipp, and Philippe (left to right)
The complete Sub-3 in Hamburg group we started back in September of last year: Rasmus, (me), Mathias, Philipp, and Philippe (left to right)

🌅 Race Day

Suddenly summer arrived and 20C / 68F was forecast for midday on April 28. People often feel like that’s too hot for a marathon race, but I’m right in my element there. Apart from my individual inclination, I don’t think you get to complain about the weather when it’s anywhere between 5C and 25C (40-80F). It always seems whiny to me when someone does!

So the conditions played nicely for us. No rain expected, just slight winds.

Mathias and I were the last two men standing of our group of five whose aim it was to break three hours today. Rasmus, Philipp, and Philippe all had legitimate excuses and weren’t even able to run the race today at all, unfortunately. The group chat has since been renamed to “2:59h Hamburg 2025” – never give up!

With a great day ahead of us and excitement in the air, friends Eike and Pia joined Mathias and me on the bike ride from home to the race center. Arriving there an hour before our start, the half marathon event had just been kicked off, so we got to cheer and take in the atmosphere, getting into the mood.

For a few years now, you can also sign up for a half marathon on the marathon race day
For a few years now, you can also sign up for a half marathon on the marathon race day
Enjoying the closed-off city streets and posing with Mathias
Enjoying the closed-off city streets and posing with Mathias

I gave my fastest shoes, the HOKA Rocket X2, to Mathias so he would have a better chance of breaking three hours, while I used my three years old and slightly slower Nike Vaporflys which still provided enough reactive bounce to give me a realistic chance to do so as well.

Both our socks game is on top today
Both our socks game is on top today

After getting ready to run and dropping off our clothes bags at the race center we did a little warm-up and moved into our starting block.

Last picture before the long challenge
Last picture before the long challenge

⛵ #OperationWindshield

The idea was that Mathias and I rigorously follow the Sub-3 hours pacers, of which there were two. The big group of runners usually surrounding them at huge races like these would provide us both with an aero advantage. By the way, people who say this won’t help didn’t pay attention in physics class and also probably never ran this fast for three hours. Especially when there’s additional wind coming from ahead, you need to spend a lot less crucial energy if there are runners right in front of you.

In case the pacers weren’t accessible to us, I offered to provide the windshield to Mathias myself. With the speed gains I’ve made in the weeks prior, I felt like I could probably even do a 2:55h marathon or faster under favorable conditions, but I found it a better decision to instead use the extra energy to help Mathias so we could both have our Sub-3 goal reached. And helping Mathias is a rewarding activity in itself, because he is very appreciative of it.

Right after the start the first priority is to find some room to run
Right after the start the first priority is to find some room to run

We started in the center of our block, but our pacers were quite a bit behind us, unfortunately. Our nervousness didn’t allow for clear thinking at the moment. It would have been a better strategy to line up closely behind them, not way in front of them. Since it was so crowded, I guessed that after the start we were immediately around 30-60 seconds in front of the two pacers. Waiting for them during the race would be a stupid idea, because it would lose us the time. No other way than forward by doing the pacing ourselves using our GPS watches.

Mathias and I stayed close to each other and mostly next to each other for the time being. Comparing paces, talking in very short and rare sentences about current best strategies. I tried hyping him up enough so he would come to believe he would have it in him today.

📣 The Immense Crowd Support at Home

Being my home town, Hamburg always offers the best support because there are often people in the crowds who know me and know I’m participating, so they come to the course to cheer. Every year, the amount of people who do so grows. And the event itself has grown a lot, too. There has been a noticeable jump since last year especially: 2024 marks the first time the race was fully sold out!

About 38,000 people had signed up for all of today’s running events. The city’s limit has been reached. And since the weather was so nice today, the crowds were higher in number than ever before, too.

Running past Altona Townhall, the place where Sophie and I got married
Running past Altona Townhall, the place where Sophie and I got married

It didn’t take long until the first familiar faces greeted us by name.

My friend Martin and his family were standing here at about 4.5 kilometers in and took this short video 🙏

At the westernmost point, closest to Mathias’ and my respective homes, there were naturally a few more friends and family members present, all in great spirits providing a noise level worthy of an international event of the size.

I noticed how the aid stations have been made bigger, too. A lot more volunteers were offering water and other drinks. More professional photographers stood on the sidelines. The race has really made a jump and plays a league or two higher than before. It may well be on the same level as, for example, Vienna or Amsterdam are right now, but still far away from the six World Marathon Majors, although that’s not necessarily a desirable state anyways. I, for one, was very pleased to see the development. It means that Hamburg has become an even more attractive place to visit and run a city marathon. And being an attractive city for athletically minded people is a worthy achievement, in my opinion.

And on the other hand, the world doesn’t really need a much bigger amount of insanely huge races such as New York or London Marathon, so I was very happy to learn that Hamburg’s limits were reached today and more growth isn’t what the staff is after. An event of this size is right in the Goldilocks area I think.

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  • This was one of the best articles I've read so far in telling about a race. I couldn't put it down. Your details were so awesome. You made New York just come alive.

    Betty J.

  • Great review, enjoyed reading it and recognize lots off related subjects and hurtles. I’m amazed by all your running and races well done.

    Andre S.

  • Great article! I've read so many long blogs only to get bored in the middle as I suffer terribly from ADD and move on to other things. Yours has been one of few that held my attention all the way to the end.

    Chae B.

  • Your good humor and ease in telling stories make this blog a really cool space. Nice review.

    Renato

  • Amazing effort Tim, well done! Thank you for taking the time to write down your thoughts, feelings and memories from the event. There’s always something to learn from your posts and this one was no exception!! Another cracking read.

    Tom K.

  • What a ride! Surely the race, but also reading about it. Thanks for taking the time to write up such a detailed report, almost feel like I was there.

    Till F.

Moving on, we’re racing back towards the city center now after the turning point at Corinthstraße, seeing a few more familiar faces along the way such as Rasmus’ – who had this Sub-3 aim, too, but was now standing cheering on the side lines. One day, Rasmus, one day! The long and straight Elbchaussee, one of Hamburg’s prettiest streets leading right along the Elbe river gives Mathias and me a welcome downhill towards Fischmarkt to let it roll for a bit. This is the 10k mark and we’re both happy to see on our watches that our timing is very good so far. The energy is holding up and we’re both soaking it all in.

Right after that downhill, Mathias is drafting legally in my slipstream
Right after that downhill, Mathias is drafting legally in my slipstream
Near Landungsbrücken
Near Landungsbrücken
The most beautiful day for it
The most beautiful day for it
Next to Baumwall, one of the train stations with the best views
Next to Baumwall, one of the train stations with the best views

🍬 Getting Nutrition Right

For me, this race wasn’t a situation for trying much new, but I wanted to at least see if a few more carbs than I ate at my previous Sub-3 success might help. So I decided to start earlier and had my first gel here at 11-12 kilometers, same brand as before, containing 40 grams of maltodextrin-based carbs. I didn’t feel the need for it, in fact, I didn’t feel the need for anything. Mathias’ and my buddy Ferdinand was supporting us around here and had brought water bottles so we could have some without the possible aid station congestion, but I declined the nice offer because everything felt great.

Mathias took him up on it and used the water to cool off and wash his home-cooked gel mixture down. He was carrying a 500 mil soft flask into which he had put about 200 grams of carbs. That’s a lot. But the mix had worked in his tests, which, by the way, he had done by going into great detail and even measuring how much volume and carbs of it he would be able to down in a single swallow. He treated it as the science it is! All of this is great experimental fun to both him and me, although I’m a bit more on the traditional side in this race, using the standard gels most others also use.

Next up is Wallringtunnel, where we get some shade and silence, because it doesn’t allow for crowds in it. Always a welcome break. What was new were some more photographers, who had positioned themselves right at the exit of the tunnel. A bit taken by surprise, the choreographed peace signs we tried to show didn’t look as cool as I imagined them to be.

You win some, you lose some.

At least my funky shirt is still conveying the message in a way
At least my funky shirt is still conveying the message in a way

A good third is done, the pace on point, Mathias drafting behind me, we’re both feeling rather well. The Binnenalster lap is on the menu now. Every year on January 1st, you can run an official Ultramarathon just around that lake-type little river, did you know? It’s 30 laps to get you to 50k / 30mi. Check out www.binnenalsterultra.de and get ready to start the next year off the right way!

I certainly look more relaxed than I feel, and I can assure you I wasn’t able to breath through the nose the whole way – not by a long shot!
I certainly look more relaxed than I feel, and I can assure you I wasn’t able to breath through the nose the whole way – not by a long shot!

Today, one lap is enough. And we’re happy to see Xavi here, who had apparently just finished the half marathon race, destroying his former personal best. What a guy!

High-fives with Xavi
High-fives with Xavi
And here you can see how meeting Xavi by surprise shows its elevating powers by turning our faces happy
And here you can see how meeting Xavi by surprise shows its elevating powers by turning our faces happy

🏞️ The Long Way Out and Back

From now on, the course leads out of the city center towards Ohlsdorf train station at the northeasternmost point before turning back towards the finish line. This is the part where it gets tough for most. First, Mathias and I get to enjoy the pretty Außenalster views and reaching the halfway point in time after 1:29:10. It’s looking okay for Mathias, who keeps behind me, but who now mentions he suddenly feels a blister growing on a toe. This sucks, but I try to talk it down and put it into perspective for him. It’s the tiniest injury one can develop during a marathon race. Yes, blisters are annoying and can be painful, but they heal so quickly after the race, it’s nothing. How it could have happened is a bit confusing to me, because he tested the shoes he’s running in, and he even went for twenty kilometers at exactly this pace in them. I guess sometimes there’s just no good explanation. Maybe the injinji brand toe socks I recommend to every runner could have helped, but Mathias so far hasn’t wanted to get those.

So he grits his teeth for now and carries on. But I get the feeling that it isn’t going to get any easier for him, which will make the main purpose of it harder to fulfill. I see his face in the corner of my eye sometimes since he’s still mainly running right behind me, and there’s more of a hurting expression in it now as opposed to the smiles from before. It’s not the blister, his legs are just not fresh anymore and I think his mental state deteriorates as he realizes this. He wasn’t sure he would be able to reach our common goal today, anyways. Just trying to get as far as possible and see how far that is, exactly.

👸 Girl Power

We make it around Stadtpark and through Barmbek. There, around 27 kilometers in, a special treat is waiting for me: My girls! Sophie took our three oldest daughters and signed the four of them up to volunteer at this race. They were stationed right here at Überseering, which is very far from home for us, but the perfect position from my perspective, because it’s getting harder now and they are able to lift my spirits like no one else. I take a quick stop to down the cold water they have ready for me and grab the good-luck flowers which daughter #2 has collected for me to carry as a talisman. Resupplied with lots of positive emotions I quickly scramble to get back to Mathias. He too had a slow water-stop, so I reach him very soon.

A few more words of encouragement from me, but then Mathias says what I expected him to say for the previous kilometers. Today it won’t happen for him, but that’s fine, I shall please go on and take the Sub-3 home while he slows down.

It’s a sad moment for sure. The training for today had gone so well for him. But, you must not forget, it’s never for nothing. The progressing speed, the gained experience, not to mention the plain health benefits – nothing is wasted. On his journey towards legendary Challenge Roth in two months time, this will be but a small bump in the road, a little side note. I can’t wait to support him there in person. Witnessing and helping someone reach and exceed their previous limits is one of the best things you can do, in my opinion.

🧭 Regrouping

Right now, I need to put these thoughts behind me, say goodbye to Mathias, and put my focus on my own body. This sets a new frame around the whole endeavor and I need a bit to adjust to it. It’s unexpectedly not about what Mathias needs anymore but about what I need instead. Sub-3 is still very much on the table, but I need to regroup and see what I can do to actually make it happen. First action is to eat a second gel and have some water. We had two slower kilometers where we lost about ten seconds each, but overall I’m right on time. Finding a small group to make use of the drafting option is not that easy. The large Sub-3 group including the two pacers have overtaken us a while ago, but we knew that this shouldn’t affect our own pacing. When comparing my watch time with their perceived speed, I was sure they were going quite a bit too fast, anyways. I tried to keep them in view at least, but they were a few hundred meters in front, no chance of catching up for now. But fortunately that wasn’t necessary.

Ohlsdorf train station is so far away from my home, I know only one family who lives in the area, the Ambs folks with their three kids. And sure enough, repeating the tradition, they came to the course to cheer for me! After that Mathias downer, this was a very welcome positive note, here at 30 kilometers into the race, where some people say the marathon really begins.

There was no group to be found which I could have followed. No drafting possible. Over the next 5k split I was on my own, but I didn’t find this frustrating – the contrary, it was quite nice to just be with myself on this journey for now. The crowds thin out a bit up here in Alsterdorf and Winterhude before the big finale starts in Eppendorf. My 5k split from 30 to 35 kilometers was actually ten seconds faster than necessary – I made up some time. But it came at the cost of a higher heart rate. This takes a greater toll on the body and requires more fuel. So somewhere here I had my third gel, which is more than I needed back at the previous Sub-3 marathon. Today it felt right. I was so glad I was still able to keep the pace, especially after the low energy week I had! I could feel it turn into a fight for me as well, though.

💐 Flower Power

In what turned out to be quite a smart move, I wore my new flower shirt to this race, as you might have seen on the pictures. This is a tongue-in-cheek move, trying to convey an easy-going vibe during such a high intensity activity and inspire some positivity. The funny thing about it is its actual positive effect on me: People love this and let me know! This elevates my own mood some more, in fact making it useful.

Eppendorf is crazy, as always. People here just party all the way during the marathon, every year. The noise is bigger than I imagine. The famous Red Bull arc with a quality party DJ and the pretty girls handing out the energy drink is a staple of the race, too. Returning to the Außenalster, the crowds seem to intensify some more, even. There’s the Adidas Frontrunners running club, who are huge in numbers and don’t take no prisoners today as well.

Going south along Außenalster, a huge AR flag in the backdrop
Going south along Außenalster, a huge AR flag in the backdrop

By now, 38 kilometers / 23mi are done. Almost there, but not quite yet. I feel how I’m slowing down despite giving it more effort. This is making me nervous. I know I have a bit of a time buffer, but the dreaded uphill Gorch-Fock-Wall is coming up soon. That’s where I lost the Sub-3 battle two years ago. It can’t happen again!

Fortunately, there are more supporters. First I see Henning on the sidelines, my buddy and Runner’s World journalist. I know he’s able to run fast so in my desperation I shout at him, “Henning you need to pace me! I need your help!” or something, and even sort of try to turn the high five he gives me into pulling him onto the course. It’s all a blur! I feel quite bad as he answers that he’s waiting for his wife Christiane, because she needs his help on these hard last few kilometers, too. Of course! I shouldn’t have asked. But that’s just what went through my mind in that situation.

Just a few minutes later, on Mittelweg, my friend and fellow BremenSanktPauli crew alumna Maiken suddenly appears with a dozen friends, and she has seen the Sub-3 pacers a few hundred meters in front of me, thinking I need to race forward to be with those in order to make it. So she pulls out a cowbell, moves next to me, runs alongside me, and shouts as hard as she can that I can still make it. Not her first rodeo, she knows how to cheer! And it helps. I manage to pull myself together and summon the mental strength needed for the upcoming last uphill battle.

Fight face
Fight face

Gorch-Fock-Wall, where dreams die. Fortunately, my 2022 failure on this 800 meter long stretch has taught me to take this part seriously. It’s the last fight before the finish, going from 41.0 to 41.8 kilometers. I just need to keep the pace, somehow, not lose more valuable seconds. A few minutes ago when passing the 40k sign, I took my split and had to realize I lost a whole 30 seconds on the previous 5k. So it’s serious, I can’t relax now, I must put in all the effort I can.

And somehow, it works. I make it up there without moving away from the goal pace too much, but with my heart rate now exceeding 90% of the maximum. It’s turning into an all-out effort as it’s supposed to.

At the next left-turn, the finish line almost in view, I see my friend Micha, who also looks like he’s seen the Sub-3 pacers come by and fears I’m again not making it. Still, I think he was shouting something encouraging.

It’s looking good. I’ve got enough time. One final sprint towards the red carpet and I know I’ve got it. 2:59:19 seconds (Strava) after starting, I cross the finish line.

✅ Chapter Closed

I almost can’t believe I’ve actually done it! Sub-3 in Hamburg, my home, after all that has happened. Fourteen years after starting on this journey, four years after setting the goal to one day running a marathon in less than three hours, and doing so now for the second time. This is what success feels like to me.

Absolutely amazing
Absolutely amazing
Still processing it
Still processing it
And the medal
And the medal

Bathing in endorphins again. I know the feeling well, I’m a runner. This is something special though. Not your typical runner’s high, it’s more profound. It feels like a genuine milestone to me. I have confirmed I am a fast runner and earned some authority on the subject of running and run training. It’s confidence-building for sure, but it’s also just another step on the metaphorical ladder, wherever that might lead.

I’m sure I’ll try to run fast marathons in the future, too, but I don’t think anything will be as meaningful to me than breaking three hours. Not even if I somehow end up at 2:29h some day, I think. Unlikely. But I can imagine using my newly gained skills to again break three at other races in the coming years. Not by much, probably, but that doesn’t matter.

What I’m sure off, is that this blog post will conclude my series of posts about the topic of fast marathon running.

Chronologically, here’s the full series:

  1. My first post about structured marathon race training using the Peter Greif method, 2019, and putting that to the test at Frankfurt Marathon in October of that year.
  2. The follow-up happened after the pandemic with 41 seconds too many at Hamburg Marathon 2022.
  3. Later that year, I tried again but failed harder at Cologne Marathon in October 2022.
  4. After a year with problems and a different focus, I finally did it in 2024 at Bienwald Marathon, explaining the custom training in detail.
  5. And lastly, this blog post right here.

My future posts about marathon races will focus on something else apart from the speed training aspect of it. That’s the beauty of marathon running: There is so much going on, so many facets, so many different perspectives. The next big post about a city marathon race will probably be about the Chicago Marathon I’m doing in October. That one will certainly center around the city and its history, the race and surrounding events, and aim to give you a good overview of what it’s like to run Chicago. But the speed aspect won’t matter much. And that’s cool.

I feel good about this ending of the multi-year spanning story of breaking three hours.

What Happened to Mathias?

In the story he told, he was in so much pain right when we split up at 28 kilometers / 17 miles in, he thought about finding the closest train station and even walked for a bit. His one leg was hurting the most, a muscular problem. But nothing was torn, it was apparently just overused. So after slowing down quite a lot, it started to get better for him. He went back into a jog. That worked, so he was able to carefully increase the pace some more, feeling really good about that. Suddenly, he realized the situation he was in: The biggest marathon race Hamburg has seen so far. Happy cheering faces everywhere. Sun and blue skies. The smile came back and so did the spring in his step. Increasing the pace some more, now with a relaxed heart rate and feeling great about getting to run today under these special circumstances, he made it all the way to the finish line in a surprisingly fast finishing time of 3:14:31. Although nearly injured, he lost just fifteen minutes and arrived in great spirits. That counts as an unsuspected win, too, if you ask me.

Finish photo of us
Finish photo of us
And here’s 2010 versus 2024 – from not knowing what’s going on at all to actually being a great runner – belonging to the top 1% of global marathon runners, if you believe the statistics
And here’s 2010 versus 2024 – from not knowing what’s going on at all to actually being a great runner – belonging to the top 1% of global marathon runners, if you believe the statistics

My History with Hamburg Marathon

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