29 June 2022, 10am
28th hella hamburg half marathon
Sun 26 June 2022
Participation was back at a similar level to the record-breaking years: 12,200 registrations.
An endless sea of runners passed along the starting corridor from the Reeperbahn to Heiligengeistfeld. The sun was out. 30,000 litres of refreshments (increased at short noticed) stood ready.
So did an elite field of German and international running starts. The course had a tweak this year. The 180-degree turn on Kennedy Bridge has been replaced by a loop past the Kennedy and Lombard bridges to save valuable seconds of slowing down and speeding up. The skaters, who started before the runners, proved that it had some effect by skating record times.
The weather was kind to spectators: sun and summer temperatures. Thunder was predicted for after the race, but it failed to materialise. But the air was already slightly humid as the race started on the Reeperbahn at 9 am.
Out to the west, back along the Elbe avenue, down the hill to the spectators on the old fish market square. At the Wallring tunnel is roughly the half way mark and the leading five are all around 30:56. That would mean finishing in 1:01:52 – too slow for a course record (1:00:52).
The women’s chances of a course record are slim too: the four leaders reach half way in 36:18 – a calculated finish time of 1:12:36 versus the record of 1:10:13.
The temperature rises, it’s already 24º. For most of the runners, that’s five or ten degrees too warm for best performance. 42 minutes in, and by the river Alster the leading group starts to disintegrate. It now comprises only Samwel Mailu and Charles Kipkurui, neck and neck. Spectators crowd at the finish line, the motorcycle cavalcade rides in. Mailu and Kipkurui race up the finishing stretch – excitement up until the last moment. Finally, despite an unfavourable position on the outside of the curve, Mailu can pull ahead – and wins! 1:01:52, just one second ahead of Kipkurui.
The fastest woman: Ludwina Chepngetich in 1:12:32, having run the second half slightly faster than the first.
At the finish line, as runners come in their feelings change from “hard core” to “slightly euphoric”. More and more spectators stand at the barriers and more runners finish with a smile or a laugh. It helps that light clouds have formed, shielding them from the burning sun.
By 1:58 the first 1,500 runners have finished. And a couple of hours later the total is around 6,500 (4,072 men, 2,418 women). Not yet the record numbers of “before”, but the old feeling is back. What a day.