Part 1, pre-race
Stockholm marathon fell nicely during the kids’ half term holidays so we planned this trip as a cheeky little extra holiday many months ago. Since then I’ve entered and completed the Brathay 10in10 and Liverpool Rock and Roll marathons. With all this happening just before our Stockholm trip, I’ve had no time to look into Stockholm and its marathon. In fact I’ve been too tired to even think about it and almost wished for a rest instead of going. Now we are here, Stockholm has been a welcome surprise and I’m so glad we came. The city is absolutely lovely, plenty of history in the old town, lots of interesting architecture and the place is lovely and clean. This city is known as the Venice of Scandinavia and I can quickly see why with its stunning buildings along the miles of waterfronts of the 14 islands which make up the city. We have spent a very pleasant couple of days exploring the city with a boat tour and a hop on hop off bus ride as well as walking miles. I would certainly recommend Stockholm for a city break even if you didn’t want to come here for a marathon. So far the weather has been sunny and warm, almost too warm which I didn’t think I would hear myself say about somewhere in Scandinavia.
The marathon starts next to the Olympic stadium, which for reasons mentioned above I knew nothing about. On Thursday I left the family and made my way to the expo next to the stadium to collect my race number. I hadn’t realised how old the stadium was, it was built for the 1912 Olympic Games. It isn’t big by modern stadia standards and to my surprise it is completely built from brick with lovely arches over the windows and entrances, with extra brick detail in many places like the gate pillars. The stadium is also surrounded by a ring of mature oak trees which I find very fitting for this old stadium and gives it an historic and relaxed atmosphere.
Both the race day and time are a bit unusual, it’s held on a Saturday instead of the usual Sunday but most unusual is the start time of noon. Not my ideal choice as this is pretty much lunch time but you can’t eat just before a long run so all the runners are going to miss a meal. I’m going to look at this as a new marathon experience but I’m sure I’ll be wanting my tea afterwards
Part 2, Race Report
The weather was a bit cooler for the race day but still wall to wall sunshine and warm at about 18 degrees. The start next to the Olympic stadium was awash with a rainbow of colours from all the runner’s clothing in the bright sunshine making a lovely pre-race spectacle. Shortly before the start I left the family and made my way into my starting pen. Whilst waiting in the warm sunshine I got talking to 2 men next to me. Our race numbers have the flag of our nationally printed in the corner. I noticed his was the German flag so I asked if he was German just to confirm this as his English was so good. He confirmed he was but now lived in Vienna in Switzerland. We went on to chat about other marathons including London and Vienna. I noticed lots of other nationalities including Japan. As well as being a very colourful race there was also a very diverse international set of runners taking part.
There was some modern dance music to start the runners off which helped pump up the atmosphere, not that it was needed. The course was two laps the first lap was 17k around the city centre, taking in the water front, the old town, the palace, the city hall and central station just to name a few points of interest. At 15k it went very close to our hotel which was where Yuk-Lam, Abbey and Lucas had decided to deploy themselves to try and take photos of me and cheer me on. As I approached I wasn’t sure which side of the road they would be on but luckily I saw them, we all waved and cheered at each other as I passed. It is lovely to see family out on the course when so far from home.
The second lap was much longer at 25k and took in a large park to the east of the city before resuming on the same course as the first lap. In the park was the half way point and the strangest water station I’ve ever seen. They were giving out some slimy green things about 4 inches long, I wasn’t expecting it and hadn’t a clue what they were. To me they looked like large slugs! Since the race I’ve been told they were pickled gherkins.
I wouldn’t call the course flat but it certainly wasn’t hilly. There was a large bridge at the western most part of the course which was the highest point with a half mile climb and a few other smaller climbs in the city centre, the biggest up from Central station.
After suffering with dehydration last week in Liverpool, I didn’t want it to happen again so I took an empty water bottle with me and a High Five electrolyte tablet. At about mile 7 I filled the bottle at a water station and added the tablet. I drank this 500ml over the next 7 miles so felt well hydrated even in the warm sun by mile 14. I really did want to break 3:30 this week and by half way was at 1:41 which meant I should easily be on for it. I was still concerned the sun and warmth might get to me. I’m pleased to say as the miles ticked on I didn’t succumb to the heat. As I passed the water stations I kept alternating between sports drink (I had no idea what brand) and water. This seemed to work well.
Finally I was into the last mile, I was so pleased to have kept a very consistent steady pace all the way round, which I had strived for and was comfortably inside 3:30. The Olympic stadium was in view, what a beautiful sight and a perfect place to finish a marathon. One of the best finishes I’ve ever seen. It was a great feeling coming into the Stadium feeling strong and being able to almost sprint round the soft track to the finish line. In the stands on the final bend were the Collins family cheering, I could see Lucas holding up his new IPad taking photos. 100 metres to go and I crossed the finish line with a time of 3:23:13.
What an excellent, well organised city marathon and with Stockholm being such a beautiful city it had made a lovely city break for the family.
The King’s Guards outside the Palace