How Hirschhäuser surprisingly became a German marathon champion

MSometimes it is 50 or more hours a week that Alexander Hirschhäuser spends with fruit flies. Manipulating their genes for research purposes is part of the doctoral thesis that the 29-year-old cell biologist intends to complete by spring. Only in the evening hours does the athlete lace up his running shoes.

The native of Central Hesse is far from being a professional like other marathon specialists, not only when it comes to the scope of training. Physiotherapy, which he has to pay for himself, and a training camp per season, he affords himself a few times a year. The research assistant at the Philipps University in Marburg often only finds rest for six hours a night.

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He mostly played his sport “under the radar”, says Hirschhäuser. On Sunday he was in focus. At the German marathon championships in Munich, the starter of ASC Breidenbach secured the title in 2:18:38 hours. The story behind it sounds like a carefully concocted plan has worked out. But the surprising success leaves the winner “speechless”.

Originally, he had set his sights on his second race on the 42.195-kilometer classic course in December in warmer climes. A look at the entry list for the marathon in southern Germany, which was crowned championship fight in mid-September, however, let the conviction ripen in him that “he cannot simply leave the title to the others”. The Olympic starters did not play, the rest saw the now sixth in the German ranking list “in my performance range”. In his marathon debut in October 2020 in Bernöwe near Berlin, he finished in 2:18:53 hours.

The former obstacle runner only registered a week before the start and had to forego special preparation for two reasons. On the day of the competition, the athlete supervised by his father ran his “own race”. Lying in second place at halftime, he saw Tom Thurley from Potsdam weaken in front and passed him. “My last quarter was the fastest,” emphasizes the winner, who was astonished by the ease of triumph.

Now competitive sport instead of a promotion?

After a successful doctorate, it is suddenly conceivable for the Hirschhäuser, from the 700-inhabitant “village” Oberdieten, to focus solely on competitive sports until 2024. He had already checked off this chapter. At the ASC, which his father co-founded, he was “in tow” of his two-year-old sister Jana, who was three times German youth and junior champion over the obstacles, without “ever having the feeling of making it all the way to the top “.

After half a year in New Zealand, the high school graduate moved to Frankfurt to study, quickly reached “a good level” in the local running scene, but was thrown back by health problems. “There were times when running was out of the question.” Sports and hard studies didn’t bring the head together either.

That only changed during my doctorate in Marburg; Hirschhäuser found “Friends for Life” in the running group who, together with his fiancée, gave him support. After a metatarsal fracture at the end of 2019, the corona crisis turned out to be a “blessing” when rebuilding. The doctoral student was only allowed to research every other day. As a result, he “pulverized” his previous best times over 5000 and 10,000 meters on the track – and now ran to his greatest success to date.

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