Stockholm Marathon, May
From fortifying slices of post-race cheesecake to following in the footsteps of pilgrims in the Middle Ages, Sweden’s races are a beguiling mixture of culture, camaraderie and catch-your-breath scenery.
Here’s our guide to the country’s top 10 races, chosen by Runner’s World Sweden’s editor Richard Kingstad. The majority of the websites we’ve listed have English translations, but you might want to go ahead and invest in a Swedish dictionary anyway – and until you do, the Swedish word for cheesecake is ostaka.
Gothenburg Half-Marathon (May)
2009 Date: May 16
Attracting around 40,000 runners and 200,000 noisy spectators, this is one of the world’s biggest half-marathons in one of Scandinavia’s most beautiful cities. Next year’s race will mark the 30th edition of the event, which starts in one of the city’s most attractive parks and passes over two bridges to offer great views of Gothenburg and its harbour restaurants. An afternoon start also ensures there’s plenty of time to enjoy the local cuisine and be back in your hotel in time for the next meal.
Race website: www.goteborgsvarvet.com
Stockholm Marathon (May)
This scenic race through the Swedish capital regularly features in the top 10 of world marathons. The course is two laps around the central city’s 14 islands taking in the woods of the Royal Park Djurgarden as well as the Royal Palace, City Hall, Royal Opera House and Houses of Parliament before a finish in the 1912 Olympic Stadium. Around 50 per cent of the 18,000 runners are from overseas, creating a friendly atmosphere both at the race and at the free pasta party the night before. This race also features an afternoon start.
Race website: www.stockholmmarathon.se
St Olavsloppet (July)
Billed as the world’s most beautiful relay, this race was established in 1988 and is the largest race of its kind in Scandinavia. Starting in Östersund in Sweden and finishing in the Norwegian city of Trondheim, the 332.5K route will take you and your team past Lake Storsjön in Jämtland via the towns of Are, Sandvika and Levanger before you reach the Atlantic coast and Trondheim. You’ll follow in the footsteps of pilgrims making their way to the Nidaros Cathedral in the Middle Ages. There are a variety of entry categories from an individual ultra to entering a team of 32 runners for the four-day relay.
Race website: www.st-olavsloppet.no
Ecco Östersund Marathon (July)
2009 Date: July 25
The organisers of the Ostersund Marathon reckon it’s one of the world’s most beautiful races and we agree. First held in 2006, this is one of the few races in Sweden that features a single-lap course so you shouldn’t become lost, especially as you’ll be running round a lake from the new Jämtkraft Arena in Stadsdel Norr before going around Brunfloviken, with a view of the lake for most of the race, and crossing the Vallsund bridge to the finish in Badhusparken. A half-marathon was introduced in 2008 and you can also race as part of a relay team.
Race website: www.ostersundmarathon.se
2009 Date: tbc
The motto of this race – Samba, Heat, Festival – gives you a taste of what to expect as 20,000 runners take to the streets of Stockholm every August for this sultry 10K. The race begins at 10pm, when the Swedish summer’s day becomes night, and kicks off a night of running and revelry. The route starts in Ringvägen next to the Zinkensdamm arena and takes in the city’s wide boulevards as well as the narrower streets of the quieter quarters, passing through Södermalm before the finish in Hornsgatan, close to the crossing Hornsgatan/Ringvägen and Zinkensdamm arena. If you’re in a hurry to enjoy the evening’s activities, strict seeding places the fastest runners at the front.
Race website: www.midnattsloppet.com
Fjällmaran Mountain Marathon (August)
2009 Date: tbc
Held in the mountains of Sweden, this race is one of Europe’s most scenic and toughest marathons. The course changes every year – and has not yet been decided for 2009 – and is roughly 43K. In 2008 the race was held in Vålådalen, made famous by 1940s long-distance running legend and former-world record holder Gunder Hägg. Only 129 runners finished the 2008 edition, so you’ll be in select company. A 14.5K race is also offered.
Race website: www.vertex.cx
2009 Date: August 30
Sweden’s biggest sporting event for women celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2008 when 25,000 women from 25 countries took part in this 10K race through Stockholm’s Royal Park Djurgarden. A staggered start means you won’t feel crowded and will have room to dance to the variety of live bands – from samba to brass – lining the flat, paved course. Every runner receives a medal and a slice of cheesecake – a Swedish speciality – at the finish.
Race website: www.tjejmilen.se
Stockholm Half-Marathon, July [Getty Images]
Stockholm Half-Marathon (September)
You’ll see Stockholm’s most captivating tourist attractions during this half-marathon around the Swedish capital. The race – nine years old in 2009 – starts on the Strömbron, the bridge between the Royal Castle and the city park Kungsträdgården, before passing the City Hall, the House of Nobility, the Royal Palace, the Swedish Parliament and the Royal Opera House. The difference between the highest and lowest points on the course is just 18m so it’s a great option if you’re looking to smash your half-marathon PB or fancy a gentle, flat course for your first half. A late afternoon start means you could even arrive on the morning of the race.
Race website: www.stockholmhalfmarathon.se
2009 Date: tbc
This event bills itself as the world’s biggest cross-country race with a variety of categories from a 4K run for juniors up to a 30K. It’s also just 10K from the centre of Stockholm so you can race on Saturday and see the sights on Sunday. The race is part of a huge running festival that attracts around 25,000 competitors.
Race website: www.lidingoloppet.se
Winter Marathon, Borlänge (November/December)
This simply-named race is the final marathon of the season for many runners in Sweden. The race is held in a different city every year, with Borlänge (a city in the centre of Sweden) hosting the 2008 edition, which will feature a fast and scenic three-lap riverside course.
Race website: www.marathonsallskapet.se