The Hamburg Experience

The odds seemed to be against me: the Monday before the marathon I realised it can’t go on like this. The pain in my left hip area got worse over days. Funnily enough it was not too bad during running, but increasingly worse when I wasn’t. I decided to have a running break. So I did not run for 5 full days. Not sure when it was the last time I had such a long break. But it did not get better. Walking and cycling also seemed to have a negative impact. In the end I took some ibuprofen and thought I give the Hamburg Marathon a go anyway, quite aware that it could be my first one where I have to drop out if the pain is getting too bad. In this spirit I made it to the start line, very nervous, very worried. Pretty early after the start it was clear it would be a different race, less against time and distance and more about managing all the things that did not feel right. I could feel the hip from the very start, not pain, but a clear sign that it’s not ok. Up to kilometre 20 I tried to stick to the 3:30 pacers, after that I was falling behind and couldn’t keep up the momentum. At k 21 I thought there is no way I can continue like this. The discomfort was spreading: hip flexor, quad, knee, calve, even toes; one leg part after the other seemed to be affected. How were I supposed to run another 21 Ks like this? I tried to focus on the moment and to keep it as relaxed as possible. K22, it seemed to take ages to reach this kilometre marker. I tried to ignore them. K23,  really? Did it take that long? I tought about how it would feel to stop now. How would I go back to the start to collect my stuff? Where is the next tube station. K24, still 18 Ks to go. Impossible. I carried on anyway, I just felt not able to make the decision to stop. K25, maybe it wouldn’t feel hard like this until the end? Maybe it would get better at some point? I tried to think about all the ultra-marathon stories where all these miracles happened. I started to think about this as an ultra-marathon experience, where you keep going against any logic or what your legs are telling you. K26, from now on its only 10 miles more. Sounds better than 16 Ks. The Hamburg crowd kept me going. They cheered, called my name, told me I am doing great. It somehow boosted my morale. I high-fived some of the kids, who seemed to make a sport out of making contact with as many sweaty runner’s hands as possible. K27, for wanting to stop 6 Ks ago I was actually not doing too badly. But still 15 Ks left! How am I supposed to do this? K28, it suddenly happened, my legs felt better again, the footfall lighter, the thoughts less gloomy. This lasted until K33 or so, when hardship came back with a punch. But, hey, now we are only talking about 9 Ks left. And so it went on. Step by step, K by K I struggled forward. It felt like cramps started to loom beyond every muscle. Knee pain loomed, too. It started to rain and I got wet and cold. Great. And it finally was sharp, unbearable pain in the knee that brought me to a hold at K38. I walked. But dropping out was of course no option anymore. I started to run again, the knee stayed quiet, it kept raining and so it happened that I somehow made it to the finish, something that had seemed impossible. Despite having experienced other tough marathons, this one was different. A bit like having experienced my own mini-miracle. I call it the Hamburg experience and I am very happy that I had it.

2 thoughts on “The Hamburg Experience

  1. Who’s the hero now, eh!? Great Job of will power – now get some rest and we’ll enjoy a relaxed little run in Copenhagen on May 24 together =)

    • LOL – YES!! I do feel a little bit heroic 😉 Looking forward to your little Copenhagen stroll in May… But hang on, are Marathons not always the same distance?

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