Last weekend was the Lidingöloppet, which promotes itself as the worlds largest cross country race. The 30 km race is famous in Stockholm and part of En Svensk Klassiker, or in English the "Swedish Classic", which involves completing 4 endurance events in a 12 month period. Aside from the Lidingöloppet, the classic events include: Engelbrektsloppet, Vasaloppet or Öppet Spår, in cross-country skiing; Vätternrundan, cycling; and Vansbrosimningen, swimming.
Seeing I had heard a lot about it, I decided it would be fun to run it, and it was good timing in terms of a challenging final lead up event 3 weeks out from the Amsterdam marathon. I wanted to treat it as a marathon training run, so hadn't been focusing on training specifically for the race itself (e.g. no tapering). The night before, I opened my race pack, and realised I had been placed in the last start group, number 11, which I knew had the potential to ruin my experience, if it was busy with insufficient overtaking space.
I went out to Lidingö around midday on what was a beautiful day, 20 odd degrees, a few dark clouds around, but pretty much perfect running conditions. As I wasn't allowed to change into an earlier group I had some time to kill, so I sat around and watched the start group battling it out on one of the TV screens they had put up. It was a Kenyan, Ethiopian and a couple of Swedes leading the charge. Running at around 3:15/km, these guys do not mess around!
I headed for the start line, luckily allowing myself 45 minutes to get there, as it was a 30 minute walk from the bag drop area! I think it could be planned a little better, save people the long walk. On the way to the start I saw a few sections of the trail where large streams of runners were already passing by. I wasn't sure exactly how early this was but it looked very busy.
Having never run this distance or type of trail race before I wasn't really sure what time I should aim for. I decided just to run based on how I felt, and see how busy the trail was. As I took off I thought I could stick to just 5 minutes per km. The first few kilometres were fine in terms of number of people, as we had started 10 minutes behind start group 10, so I ran freely, and fairly quickly. But as soon as we caught the back of the first start group a new style of running began, one which involved zigzagging, tree dodging, rock jumping, and side footing, as I battled to get past people.
At first I thought "this is ok, I am going to feel great because I will just be passing people the whole time". But inevitably I was held up several times, and found it hard not to become frustrated with people who insisted on blocking the "overtaking lane". As much as I try and put my competitive self to the side sometimes, I usually find I can't help myself, but I really just wanted to be able to run freely and enjoy the trail. I can only blame myself though, I should have made sure I was in an earlier start group.
The people blockades aside though I still enjoyed the run, and it went well overall in terms of my time and how my body felt. All the strength work I did after my ITB and knee problems seem to have paid off as I have managed a pretty heavy work load recently and stayed injury free. I also practiced my marathon race nutrition eating two gels in the first half of the race and didn't have any issues with my stomach. I finished in 2:14:57, which a friend told me afterwards meant that I qualified for a silver rather than a bronze medal - you get it if run a sub 2:15 time as a male so I made it by 3 seconds!
I would gladly recommend the Lidingöloppet, it was well organised, and as long as you can start with the right paced group, I think you would have a relatively hassle free run. I will be back to run it again!