Race Review – Hanover or Hannover Marathon

I do love me some overseas racing fun and games.  The first race I ever signed up for was Amsterdam half. My A Race is Comrades. My first marathon was Berlin, and I had booked Copenhagen before I ran that to take the pressure off. Fast forward 33 marathons or above and I have enjoyed  26.2 miles in Athens (twice), Lucerne (eventually), Barcelona (ole), Gran Canaria (TGC) and Vienna (no timing chip), as well as the aforementioned debut at Berlin and Copenhagen, and shorter races in New Orleans, Disney, Cape Town, North Carolina, Paris, and Dublin. So, after some muddy English months leading up to it, April would be time to get back on the Euro kick and run Hanover and Rock and Roll Madrid.

Hanover, for some reason I had been spelling it with two ‘n’s and I do not know why, was just a question of timing. You go on racecheck, or runnersworld or ahotu and try to build a race calendar and some weekends the options are there. Others and you are stuck with lap races, or having to travel further afield. Not that I have a problem with that. But first to wikipedia to check on the spelling.

Hanover or Hannover (/ˈhænvər, –nə-/German: Hannover [haˈnoːfɐ] (About this soundlisten)Low German: Hannober) is the capital and largest city of the German state of Lower Saxony

Well, that is no help at all. I guess I will just have to wait for the medal to see.

The Race

I like the website. “Whether you are a professional marathon runner or love running just for fun – beat your personal best on the flat and fast course through Hannover!” (2 n’s !!!) Flat and fast. Like Berlin? As I have been looking forward to a nice flat road marathon for a long time. The first 3 (Berlin, Manchester (my PB) and Copenhagen) in Autumn 2015/Spring 2016 were probably the last flat marathons I did. For some insane reason races like Beachy Head, TGC, and Athens seem to crop up all too frequently and I end up having to struggle through. And, having been off sick with a stinking virus for a month, a nice flat German marathon is exactly what I need and want. Wunderbar.

The Route

20m max elevation, now that is attractive.

Fast, flat course?

And as for the route? Well, it is abstract as I have never been to Hanover or Hannover before, but the map I found online at runinifinity seems to suggest it will be a pretty one going past all the sights.

And I would be flying Han Solo for this one and, with Madrid at the end of the month with Baz Tav, Kaya, Marijke and Katie, a Spanish trip that would end up sauced, perhaps it is better that way. At least I could focus on the job at hand, EXPO, chill, top 5 time, 100 marathon club #34, and then a couple of days enjoying the city, no matter how you spell it.

EXPO etc

Roll back. I did think I would be running this one Han Solo but in the end I got a last minute DM from Cazza Guest to say that she was running it too. This new fact culminated in not only us meeting at Heathrow, but sitting a row apart on the plane, seeing each other at the baggage carousel and then at the EXPO the next day.

The first thing I noticed is that, after the 10 minute walk, including getting lost from my hotel, the EXPO was set at a beautiful building, the new town hall. The packet pickup including timing chip was seamless. It was ruthlessly efficient, as you would expect from the Germans, and very very friendly, again, as you would expect from them. Timing chip was tested. Not like Vienna Marathon where they didn’t check that I had one in my bag and I didn’t get a time. The usual suspects were at the EXPO, On, Nike, several gel companies, all the German races, a few other European races, a massage area and a large central Erdinger stand complete with oversized inflatable bottle and free beer. What’s not to like?

Outside there was a whole camp of tents for the kids, a giant inflatable strawberry version of a bouncy castle, and everything needed to make the day of the Kids Race fun. Around the other side of the town hall a music stage had been set up, meats fried (currywurst, bratwurst, chicken schnitzel, kebabs) and beer flowed. It was sunny and very very relaxed and welcoming. After a couple of beers, and the tradition of finding my name on the wall of runners, I checked in the goody bag. Not any goodies in there, other than a wristband. And this took me back to my first marathon. At Berlin they gave out rubber wristbands. I thought this would be my “thing” to collect from marathons. But at my second, in Manchester, there were none, and so I needed to find an alternative. I did, in the form of sew on badges all being stuck onto a kit bag.

Currywurst and chips and another beer in the sun later and I was ready for an afternoon snooze, kit prepped and ready to go, with the inclusion of a new gel belt, a couple of gels and other race nutrition, a tee (that I will be sporting elsewhere) and the race hoodie. I did get a race tee, and this is the EVENT tee, before people start going for their torches and pitchforks, there were 2 types of tee, white EVENT tees and vest that promote the event, and the blue/green FINISHERS tee. This one you do not get until AFTER the race, AFTER you have FINISHED it.

How I did

I am going to brain dump the race as I have literally limped in, sat in a cool bath with a wet flannel on my bonce, and am now flagging. It will end like the dwarf book from Morir, with me trailing off at the end… “they are coming….”

You start by the New Town Hall, the wonderful building from the EXPO. It is pretty much the same stands as the day before, although griddled meat at 8am is not the most palatable of smell. It starts at 9, so if you are sensible enough to find a hotel 10 mins away (I recommend the DORMERO), then you get a lay in. On the way to the EXPO and again to and from the race, I came across some stumbling stones, or stolperstein.  It won’t mean much to many, but for me they are precious, especially when stumbling upon them by accident, and I decided to dedicate my run to the TOPF family, who all were taken from their home in Hannover, and perished in Auschwitz for no other reason than their religion under the Polish Jew act of 1938 that sent 17,000 to their death.

The start is great. You are in pens A through F. Even though my number was 170 my pen was D for 4 hours plus. You leave the town hall in your rear view mirror and then head to a huge man made lake. You run along one side of this and it is lovely away from the city and then through a rural part, fields, a dead fox, dead mouse, and shit. Not sure about the fox and the mouse, their demise was particularly bloody and I felt a Tarantino-esque Children’s story had played out there.

Mr Rabbit did it

From the farmland you turn and enter a large park. This bit was great as it is a HUGE downhill. As I have mentioned before, or will mention a few times, this is definitely a PB course for those who go in search of such things. On the same day as Manchester too, home of my PB. The HUGE park downhill then turns and you nip in and out of small villages, much as you would do on any marathon in a small city.

You nip in and out of the hamlets and their pockets of support. If you want support the whole way around like London then this might not be for you, but there are no long periods without people cheering, shouts of HOP HOP HOP, cowbells and old school football rattles, the ones you swing around. The surfaces are superb and you can just keep going. Today, though, it was swelteringly hot (22 degrees) and the wall was always there waiting for me.

You can’t see it, but the wall is there. Hiding in the bushes.

Most of those running around you are running the relay, I don’t know the percentages but there was definitely more of them. And then you are back into the big park and heading back towards the city centre. The roads are wide. We had one side of 4 lane carriage ways opened to us and, as this is a relatively small city marathon, you had all the room you wanted. You could pick at lane at times.

The water tables were my favourite part of this. There was no excuse for being dehydrated, overheated or malnourished. As you came to a checkpoint/fuelling point you have 2 water tables, then a table for isotonic drink, then apple juice (fizzy), then coke (proper coke too not Rola Cola or Lidl’s own), then a table of bananas and apples pre-cut, and finally buckets for you to replenish your race issued sponge. You needn’t carry a bottle, or hydration unless you rely on your gels. The cups were paper and compostable. I think I overdid it with the hydration based on the heat though and, as the wall came striding towards me with a “your name’s not down, you aren’t coming in” expression, I felt gassy and nauseous.

Luckily, and I say luckily, due to the combination of my recent sickness, and lack of training due to it, and the heat I had to drop down to a crazy 200m run/200m walk as I felt like I was gonna bring up my currywurst and pasta from the day before, and this worked for me. There will no doubt be photos of me walking at points, gaining a tan that will be comical in it’s random nature.

And then with 5K ticking over, I was back in the city centre, a long downhill, the crowds egging you on, and then the giant domed town hall and the finish. 100 Marathon Club number 34 in 43 months done and dusted. Bosh. ‘ave it! As the Germans say ‘Klappe zu, Affe tot’ basically ‘that’s that’, or ‘end of story’. It literally means ‘close the flap, the monkey’s dead’.

The Bling

Yeah, it is alright. It shows the landmarks and I like it. Although #runnover is a stupid hashtag.

The Scores on the Doors

It would have scored higher if it had been 5 degrees cooler, as that affected my personal enjoyment, and I did not like the other races suddenly joining us when we are all beaten after 21K and 32K. Still, top 3 and would probably, with the right crowd, come back as this is a wonderful city and definite PB course. Cazza did get her PB and GFA. I did not.

Summary

Heat aside, the only negative I would mention would be that there are numerous races going at the same time. Whilst the poor beleaguered marathon runners get progressively tired they are joined by overly sprightly 10K relay runners, then a half marathon starts at half way (DUH!), and then at the end a 10K, a walkers 10K, and one for Power Walkers and Nordic Walkers too. Although I had finished without seeing any of those. The half marathon did cause a few issues, as it does not follow the marathon route, and therefore at junctions where the marathon goes one way and the half the other, marshals walk out and have to corral you the right way. This happened a lot, and the half marathon was probably as big as the full, probably more so, and so when we were on the same road the field was dense and you were bunched in with relatively fresh half marathon runners, and then after a split you were down to a trickle of marathoners again.

The Half Marathon blue bibs are toast

The organisation was superb and I cannot fault it. It was pretty often, taking in the countryside of Lower Saxony. If it had been cooler and I had been better prepared it would have been a PB attempt for sure, but I was happy to jeff over the line and finish in those conditions. And the city itself is stunning. Food? Tick. Beer? Tick. Hop on and off bus tour? Scheduled for tomorrow.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE HANNOVER MARATHON? YES

WOULD I RUN THE HANNOVER MARATHON AGAIN? YES

NEXT UP:

ROCK N ROLL MADRID MARATHON

 

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