Hamburg Marathon result and report by Tom McCart

Race Date: Sunday 17th April 2016


Goal Description Completed?
A < 3 Hours No
B < 3 hours 30 mins No
C Just Finish Yes


This was to be my first Marathon and after only one year of running I had an extremely ambitious goal of running it in under 3 hours so I had decided to take the training very seriously.

I decided to base my training plan using the book ‘Advanced Marathoning’ by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas. I built myself a plan which had me peaking at 70 miles of running a week and starting 16 weeks before the race.

I work as a postman and regularly cover 60 miles of walking a week so I thought that that would be a good base to start my training plan with.

Unfortunately I didn’t fully take into account that I would still be walking those 60 miles a week whilst following my training plan (as well as the 70 miles a week of commuting on my push bike) and on the 21st of February it all fell apart

After a 20 mile long run along the Trans Pennine Trail my legs completely seized up and I was almost immobile for a couple of days with the most pain occurring in my left knee, I decided to cancel all my runs for the following week as was entered into the National Cross Country Championships the following weekend.

The morning of the national champs came and I joined some other club members at a local parkrun for an easy warm-up and I felt fine, it seemed that the week of rest had done its job. Unfortunately this proved to be not the case during the actual race and I had to withdraw half way round after slowing down to a crawl with my left knee screaming with pain at me.

I decided to take another two weeks off running until my next race, the Grindleford Gallop (a 21 mile Trail Race around the Peak District) This race was meant to be a marathon check as it was said that the time you complete this race would be the same as your marathon.

I felt well rested and was running well along the course, most of the route avoided paved roads so there was a lot less impact on my legs which caused me to run very well for the first 13 miles. At this point there was a stand that was providing cakes so I stopped to have a slice.

This backfired tremendously as when I started running again I felt my legs starting to seize up and after the 14th mile I couldn’t run at all. I probably should have withdrawn at this point but I didn’t want two DNFs in a row so I decided to power walk (limp) the remaining 7 miles to the finish line.

That was enough to make me realise that I was not going to achieve my sub 3 goal at the marathon and if I was not careful I could cause permanent injury to myself so I made the decision to withdraw from all the events I had been planning on going to and to stop all running and cycling to get as much recovery as I could before I flew off to Hamburg in 4 weeks time with the exception of the Sheffield Half Marathon which I had volunteered to pace (Pacer report Here)

Race strategy

I had decided that the new plan for the marathon was to just enjoy it, with a secondary goal of 3 and a half hours.

I would not look at my watch in the beginning and just run with what felt comfortable without looking at my watch in the first 5km

I brought 7 gels with me and I would eat them after every 5km and I would take water at every one of the 15 aid station around the course.

If I started to feel my knee injury reappear I would slow down to make sure I would finish and I would never stop as I felt that if I did I wouldn’t be able to start running again and I would have to walk to finish.


I collected my race pack at the Expo on the Friday before the race as well as my finisher shirt (bit lame getting it before the race but whatever)

I made sure to get an early night even though I got little sleep and I woke up early, had some breakfast (bananas on toast) and jogged down to the start of the marathon arriving two hours before the race was due to start.

The atmosphere was amazing and I was getting really exited for the 26.2 miles ahead of me,

The two hours past extremely quickly and before I knew it I was at the front of my corral and waiting for the race to start

Kilometres [1] to [5] (22:34)

The gun went off and we were off, This section of the race was through the famous Reeperbahn of Hamburg ‘The sinful mile’ although I saw little of it due to the huge amount of running around me.

I got into a comfortable groove and just enjoyed the run during this section. I checked my watch when I saw the 5km marker ahead, and realised I was running quite briskly. If I kept up the pace for the rest of the race I would finish in about 3:04 so I decided to slow down over the rest of the route and aim for a 3:30 completion.

The water station was well staffed and I got a drink easily.

Kilometres [6 to [10] (24:34)

This next 5k was where I thought the crowds would start to thin but they remained very strong, there were plenty of spectators who had brought speaker set ups and were playing music which was very enjoyable as the course made a u-turn towards the Hafencity part of Hamburg.

I had started to slow the pace down and was still feeling very strong, it did get on my nerves that everyone had started to overtake me as I am quite competitive but this was to be expected as I had started in a corral based on my estimated time of 3 hours.

Kilometres [11] to [15] (24:53)

This section started with the first of the bands along the route, a troupe of drummers providing a great beat to keep everyone going.

It was at this point when I was passed by the 3 hour 15 pacers, I was somewhat surprised by how long it took for them to catch up but I guessed that they had started much further back in the corrals.

Kilometres [16] to [20] (25:46)

This was my favourite part of the route. Km 16 started with a long section through the Wallringtunnel, a great experience and a weird experience where the echoes of everyone’s footsteps bounced around and provided a great soundtrack to our underground venture.

After we left the tunnel the route circled the Binner-Alster, an enclosed section of the river Alster where the first changeover of the relay race occurred.

The route then followed the east coast of the Alster with great views of the sailing boats on the water.

My pace had slipped a little more but I was still on for a time of 3:25 according to my quick calculations.

Kilometres [21] to [25] (26:36)

The halfway point approached and I passed it in 1:43:24, if I could just keep up the current pace and give a bit of a push at the end I would get my 3:30 and I felt that I had the energy left to do so.

By the end of this section though I realised that I had slowed down even more and I was unlikely to get my target unless I was prepared to really push.

As I wanted to just enjoy the race rather than break myself going for a time I decided to not push the pace and just keep going with what felt comfortable.

Kilometres [26] to [30] (29:38)

I was still being overtaken by everyone around me but I had got used to it by now and justified it by telling myself that everyone else was running a negative split.

It was near the end of this section where it all started to fall apart. My left knee had started to hurt again and I slowed right down to below an 11 minute mile, not good.

The rest of the race became a battle to manage the pain and pace, and I don’t remember much of what came after.

Kilometres [31] to [35] (36:23)

My pace had slowed to an absolute crawl and my morale was low, thankfully the crowds were still as thick as ever and kept me going, with spectators cheering on my name as I struggled past (my name was written on my bib)

Kilometres [36] to [40] (35:19)

I recovered slightly from my low morale when I made some quick calculations and realised that if I didn’t improve my speed I would finish with a time of over four hours. I decided that that wasn’t going to happen and managed to keep my pace above what I needed for a sub 4.

Kilometres [41] to [42.2] (11:39)

I had made a mistake with my watch that I only realised at this point, I had it set to imperial for pacing the Sheffield Half and forgot to change it back. If I had I might have noticed sooner that my watch was telling me that I was further ahead that I actually was on the route.

I realised this slightly after passing the 40km marker, my watch was telling me that I only had one mile to go but one mile was not equal to 2.2 km so I had a brief panic before deciding to go balls to the wall and push my heart out until the end

I improved my pace to a sub nine mile and started to keep up with everyone around me.

The last corner came and I could see the red carpet ahead leading towards the finish line, I pushed even harder for a bit sprint to cross the line and managed to finish with a time of 3:57:18


I nearly fell over several times after I crossed the line but managed to stumble my way along to collect my medal.

I went to the athletes area and decided to use the free massage available, I waited for a short time sitting on a bench and when it was my turn I couldn’t stand up, I needed to be helped to the massage table and after having the massage which while very nice, I still could hardly move my legs so I spent the next hour walking in circles to try to ease them back into working order.

I just about made it back to my accommodation without collapsing and had one of the best sleeps of my life.

This did the trick and I was able to ease off the stiffness in my legs over the next few days whilst I enjoyed the rest of my time in Hamburg (I made a city break out of the trip)


Overall I am happy with my time of 3:57:18, I managed to finish my first marathon and enjoy it and the fact that I was able to quite easily pull out a fast finish meant that I could have been close to a 3:30 time if my injury hadn’t reared its head and I might have even been able to get my sub 3 if I hadn’t missed about 7 weeks of training.

I will return to Hamburg at some point to give it another go, it was a great event and a great city to visit.

Striders Results

Pos Name Cat Time
5905 Tom McCart M Sen 3.57.18

Official Results: Hamburg Marathon results

scroll to top