The Midnattsloppet (midnight run) is one of the most popular running races in Stockholm. Founded in 1982, it has been run annually ever since. The concept has been so successful that it has also expanded to other cities in Sweden, including Gothenburg and Malmö. The Stockholm race is through Södermalm, and since 1995 the distance of the race has been fixed at 10 km.
What differentiates it from other running races, aside from being run at night, is the party like atmosphere that is created. That, and a few other traditions, like everyone wearing the same coloured t-shirt. The exceptions are the professional runners, who wear whatever they want, and the people who have completed all Midnattsloppet races (now 35). This year there were 15 of them, and they wore pink instead of turquoise coloured shirts like the rest of us.
Another tradition is that everyone sings the same song before the race starts. It is a song by Kenta (Knut Gustafsson), with the song called “Just idag, är jag stark”, a song about feeling strong after struggling with addiction. He was known as a supporter of the Stockholm football team Hammarby IF, who adopted the song as their anthem. I managed to learn (and sing) the first two lines of the song thanks to help from my girlfriend, but after that I was pretty lost…
What I like about the Midnattsloppet is that it is more about participation than anything else, and seems to attract quite a lot of people who might not normally run races. This year there were over 30,000 people signed up, which results in a staggered start to avoid congestion. It is important to get your start group aligned with your projected time, or you will end up caught in the crowd. Last year I started in group 3 as I was a late entry, and spent a lot of time zigzagging around people. I calculated that I overtook 3000 people over 10 km, so 3 people every 10 m, which was good psychologically, but not very time efficient.
This year I got up into group 1C based on my time from 2015 (40:42), which is the 40-45 minute start group. I started the race with my friend and fellow Run With Me Stockholm group member Oscar, and we found our way to the front of group 1C. I was aiming to run in less than 40 minutes this year, so thought it was best to run with the 1B runners from the start.
I had mulitple goals for the race, firstly have fun and don´t get injured, to run a 10 km personal best (requiring me to run under 39 minutes), and to try and maintain an average pace of 3:45/km. The first couple of kilometres were flat and downhill, which makes it easy to start fast. And that is what happened, I checked my watch after the first km and Oscar and I had run a rather speedy 3:32. Once the first uphill section started my pace slowed, but I managed to maintain around 3:45-3:55 through most of the race.
In the end I had fun and didn’t get injured, yay, and finished in 38:37, which was 143 rd and a new PB, so I was really happy. I didn’t manage the 3:45 /km average pace, so there’s something to aim for next 10 km race.
The winner, 21 year old Yetsedaw Minale from Ethiopia, ran the race in 29:38, which is incredibly quick. Especially when you consider that the 10,000 m race just run at the Rio Olympics (on a flat athletics track rather than a hilly, and at times cobblestoned Södermalm), was won by Mo Farah in just over 27 minutes. Perhaps we’ll see Yetsedaw at the 2020 Olympics!