Hamburg is definitely a people-oriented city. Everything from the transportation, hotel, restaurant to the race itself, is geared towards customer satisfaction.
We flew with Brussels Airlines and landed in Hamburg on Saturday, April 16, 2016 just before 11:00 AM. Three train transfers and 33 minutes later (one stop on S1-Blankense to Ohlsdorf, 5 stops/9 minutes on U1-Ohlstedt to Kellinghusenstrasse, and 4 stops/6 minutes on U3-Wandsbek-Gartenstadt to Sternchanze), we were at Hamburg Fair to get my bib at the expo.
We arrived at the expo just as the Kids’ Run was getting underway. The race was finished by the time we got out of the expo hall so there were lots of children with their families milling about and enjoying the post-run festivities. The entrance to the trains was lined with commuters. It was going to be a long wait so we decided to walk to our hotel instead.
The five-star Grand Elysée Hamburg was our home for the weekend. Normal check-in time was 3:00 PM but we were able to relax in our room by 1:30 PM. I checked out the goodie bag and found that aside from my Mizuno finisher’s shirt, I also got Red Bull, Krombacher Alkoholfrei alcohol-free beer, Mobil water container, Seba-Med daily shampoo, LBS gummies, Dextro energy bar, Eat Natural bar (very yummy!), 2Skin Anti-Chafing cream, a pack of tissues, sponge, race magazine, and safety pins.
We walked to the nearby Edeka supermarket to stock up on water, yogurt, more Eat Natural bars, and some chips. Along the way, we scoped out Vapiano as a possible restaurant for dinner. The restaurant was full of people, a sign that the place has good food, affordable, or both.
Down time followed next where we just watched TV and took a short nap before we set out for dinner. The hotel itself has many restaurants but we wanted to walk about and see what else was nearby.
The hotel was bordered by beautiful parks on three sides. We were less than 5 minutes away from the Dammtor station and the University of Hamburg, and more importantly, just a walkable kilometer away from the start and finish lines.
Vapiano is a popular cafeteria-style Italian restaurant for university students, locals, and tourists. They give you a card when you enter and you line up in front of your preferred entree. What I love about this concept is that everything is cooked right before your eyes and they use the freshest ingredients possible. My chef plucked basil right from the little plant in front of him. When he finished cooking my Estiva pasta, he asked me to put my card on the sensor so he can add my meal to the bill.
Richard ordered a margharita pizza with freshly-made dough. We arrived during the peak dinner rush so his pizza came late. When the young cashier found out that his dinner was delayed, he took 50% off the cost of the pizza, a gesture we really appreciated.
Breakfast buffet was at 7:00 AM and the variety of choices passed Richard’s exact standards, especially with the unlimited bubbly available!
The Haspa Marathon Hamburg started at 8:50 AM for wheelchair participants and 9:00 AM for the marathon and marathon relay participants. The race was capped at 12,000 participants with a 6:30 time limit and goes by the theme, Run the Blue Line. The blue line refers to the official course marker painted on the street that we all followed along.
The race was definitely well planned. The race started and finished in the same area where we picked up our race bibs. The organizers warned the participants not to pee in public at the risk of being slapped with an administrative offense so they had porta potties at every kilometer, an unusual amenity in a major race.
The race is flat and meanders through some of the most scenic parts of the city. Hamburg prides itself as having more bridges than Venice and Amsterdam combined, and it is easy to see why.
Richard took some photos of the area while waiting for me.
I normally use the work phone for photos but Richard bought me a new iPhone so I can now take better ones. Here are a few of them taken along the route.
Almost all of the music spots were drum lines. The aid stations had plenty of water, Dextro energy drinks and gels, and bananas. Massage stations were available starting at the 30K mark.
The weather was fickle that day. We had sun, rain, hail, clouds, and wind. I wore a Nike long-sleeved zip-up shirt, a Brooks vest and I’m glad I kept my plastic bag on top of it the whole time. A runner commented that I must be hot wearing all these gear. I responded that it was actually perfect because I get cold easily.
It was nice to get the red-carpet treatment at the finish chute. I walked a bit more to get my race medal. I did not get finisher freebies further down the area because I took a shortcut to meet up with Richard.
Richard led me through the park back to our hotel. They allowed us a late checkout at no extra charge, yay! With the extended time, I was able to take a shower, rest a bit, and take the train back to the airport. There, we took a post-race photo in front of a lust-worthy BMW i8 on display at the airport.
We were back in Brussels a little past 8:00 PM and home by 9:30 PM.