I have a guest post today from my good friend Lindsey, who recently ran the Stockholm Marathon! If you’ve been reading the blog for a long time, you might remember when Dustin and I went to Sweden in 2012 to get my Volvo (read about it here, here, and here!) I LOVED Sweden and was so excited to hear more about Lindsey’s experience with the marathon there as I’d like to run it someday.
Here is her guest post and recap- Enjoy!
I first heard about the ASICS Stockholm Marathon when my fiance’s friend from high school, who lives in London, asked my fiance, Ryan, if he wanted to run the marathon. As soon as Ryan asked me if I wanted to do it, I of course said “Yes! Let’s do it!” immediately.
This year the marathon was on June 3rd, and even though I had already signed up for the Boston Marathon (April 17th) AND Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN (June 17th), I still thought it would be a great idea to add a third in the mix for spring races. I decided to transfer my Grandma’s registration to another runner so it was a more manageable race schedule. Ryan was planning on the Phoenix Marathon (February 25th) and thought he would be up for a second race as well. I didn’t really look into the details of the Stockholm marathon before signing up. Ryan went to school in Stockholm in middle school so I knew right away I wanted to go to check out where he lived and went to school.
We signed up and found the website stockholmmarathon.se pretty easy to navigate with a translation to English available. It was 105EUR to register (about 120US$), which is pretty typical for a marathon that’s not on the World Major circuit. I read here that there would be about 18,000 registrants. The only thing that was missing was an elevation chart of the course. More on that later. They did have a nice map online, which allowed us to plan our accommodations.
When we arrived in Stockholm we noticed signs all over the city for the marathon and we started to get excited! We stayed at the Generator Hostel, which was really nice. We got a private room and it was just right for us. It was only $166/night which was significantly less than any hotel we could find and in a convenient location for the marathon. In comparison the Best Western was $280/night.
The expo was held in the same location as the race start/finish area, which was nice so we could figure out how to get to the start. The start of this race isn’t until 12:00 PM so we knew we wouldn’t be in a hurry to get there for the race, but it was really nice to calm any worries about getting there. The race start and finish area was at and around the 1912 Olympic Stadium.
At the expo they gave everyone the opportunity to take a complimentary pre-race photo. This was ours:
Classic. We’ll keep this one forever.
The expo was pretty small, with very small amount of asics gear for purchase. There were a large number of the booths promoting other marathons and a few booths for energy bars and gels.
They had a complimentary pasta “dinner” and we took advantage of it for lunch the day before the race. It was a vegetarian pasta dish with basil pesto, sundried tomatoes and olives. So great!
Then we tried to walk as little the rest of the day. That night we had pizza for dinner since that’s normally what we eat before long runs and marathons.
We found a great Italian restaurant, Giro, about a half mile from our hostel.
The morning of the race we got up around 8:30AM to get a proper meal in prior to the race. It was so nice to sleep in before running! We met our friends who were also racing for breakfast in our hostel prior to walking over to the start. We took the train the day before, but there is quite a bit of walking involved in the train system in Stockholm and walking 1.5 miles to the start was actually less time on our feet so we just walked to and from the race. On the way there I ate a banana and clif bar since we’d miss lunch.
The start area was really well organized. The people in Europe love to queue, which meant super long lines everywhere, especially for people picking up their bibs on the day of the race. I’m so glad we picked our bib up the day before. There were toilets almost completely surrounding the court area. Inside the court area was the bag check, changing tents for after, information booths, and a large open area to sit and wait . The lines to the toilets were long but the wait times were fairly short because there were so many of them. We spent most of the time in the toilet lines, as per the usual before lining up at the start.
At the start the corrals were very well organized as well, with plenty of room to stand while waiting for our start. The gear check was organized and efficient. There were two waves: one at 12:00 and the next at 12:10. Ryan was in corral B and I was in C and both were in the first wave so we were able to start around the same time. There were a ton of pacers in each corral, which was interesting once I slowed down. I saw the same pace run past me more than a few times.
The best part of the start was the heartbeat music they played at the start while we walked up to the start line after they released the corrals:
The weather was around 65 degrees but it was pretty humid: that dense humidity where you feel like it will rain any minute. I kept wishing for it to rain the entire time. It never did so it was on the warm side for me personally. I never do well if it’s really humid. It was also pretty crowded for about the first 10-12 miles; where I could feel the body heat from all the runners around me, making it a little warmer. Despite this, up on the hilly bridges a cool breeze could be felt and it was cloudy, helping to keep us cooler than it might have been.
Speaking of hills, since there was no elevation chart we did not expect it to be very hilly. But it was. It was definitely the hilliest road marathon I’ve done out of 12 road marathons. My Strava app said it was 1,700 ft elevation gain. I held onto my goal pace for about half the race but then the hills got to me and I slowed way down and just enjoyed the experience. While disappointing, I knew this was going to be my last marathon for a while, and was determined to maintain a positive attitude and enjoy it as much as possible.
The crowd support was great! The most common cheer we heard was something that sounded like HEYAHEYAHEYA. What they were saying was “Heja”, which means “cheer” in English. It was said with so much enthusiasm by the spectators. With gusto! And actually the runners at this race also cheered for one another as well.
The largest hill was actually my favorite part of the race. There were flags counting down 3, 2, 1 to the top of the bridge, and then at the top it said “Don’t run – fly” which was extremely motivational up the hill. The bridge had the best views of the race since we could look down on the city. The second time over this beast of a hill another runner patted me on the back as she was passing and told me to keep up the good work (she could tell I was struggling). It was heartwarming.
The offerings on the course were expectedly different than what I’m used to seeing in US races. In the second part of the race, there was an “Ice Power” station. Per the Ice Power website, it is a cold gel used to relieve pain and inflammation. They were spraying it on runner’s legs in the station. Not knowing what it was, I didn’t try it but many others stopped!
They also offered coffee, flat pepsi, and vegetable broth. I tried the vegetable broth and Pepsi but I’m not sure that was a great choice. I didn’t feel as well after trying the broth in particular – it was warm! I figured I was going slow in the second half and it wouldn’t affect me too much. At the support stations they also had cups of water, sports drink, and offered gummy candies, bananas, and pretzels throughout.
The finish was in the Olympic stadium, which was pretty great. There were a ton of fans waiting and cheering in the stadium. I got pretty choked up finishing in the stadium.
There were 12,571 finishers in 2017. 9,042 finishers were men and 3,529 finishers were women. I had forgotten how many fewer women run marathons in Europe. That’s about 28% of finishers. I previously ran the Prague marathon, (you can read about that here ), where an even smaller percentage, only 18% of all racers, were women. To compare this with the US, at Grandma’s there were 6444 finishers with 2935 of them women: that’s 45% women.
After the race, they offered hot dogs and there was a lot of food in the post-race bag. I was just happy to have my medal and to be done at that point and didn’t think too much about the food.
The ASICS Stockholm Marathon also used marathonfoto for their race photos. It would be 450kr to buy all the downloads for our race, about 53US$, which is a lot less than the 85US$ that they charge for Boston photos.
There was one more perk at this race: great shirts.
Despite the hills, I would still recommend this race and thought it was a fun experience. It was very well organized and Stockholm is a beautiful city to have a runcation!
Thank you so much Lindsey for sharing your experience with us!