Summer has officially arrived in Stockholm and although the weather has been a little underwhelming so far, the long, light days are one of the things I love about living in Sweden.
The start of summer also means something else, the Stockholm marathon! I ran it for the second time after having a pretty mixed (bad) experience in 2014 (out too fast and hit the wall). But this time round I would run with a different goal - to keep my girlfriend company. I was to be her personal race photographer, sports psychologist and most importantly, water boy. Our original goal was sub 4 hours, but after injury and sickness disrupted the 6 weeks leading up to the race she adjusted her goal to "finish"... and ideally in around 4:15 if her body felt ok.
It was ideal conditions for running - mild and overcast, and we met with our friend Oscar beforehand to stretch on the sports field and hang out.
After going through the standard pre-marathon routine, we made our way over to the start line to soak up that unique marathon atmosphere - nervous excitement. Hanna had run 46 minutes in a 10 km race during the spring so we had a starting position well ahead of the pace we would actually be running.
As the gun went off and we begun the race I adjusted my headphones and checked that the energy gels and paracetamol were still in their respective pockets, all was as it should be. We basically cruised for the first 10-15 kms, easily keeping our 5:50 / km pace as streams of people passed us. One of them was this guy below. There are always people dressed up in the marathon, and you see some unusual and uncomfortable looking outfits. I can't imagine running a marathon in an afro wig is a great experience once you start sweating.
This year there was a slight course change, with the dreaded steep hill up from Söder Mälarstrand to Västerbron removed in favour of a more gentle uphill loop via Hornsgatan. It was a nice change, and all was going well as we ran past Stadshuset the first time. I thought it was a good idea to get a few pictures while Hanna was still having a good time...
As we made our way through the city and towards Djurgården I could see that the smile had begun to fade and it looked like Hanna was uncomfortable. We were not even one third of the way and she told me she already had quite bad knee pain. I was pretty concerned about her ability to continue/finish but just tried to support her, only she would know when it was too much pain to continue.
Speaking of uncomfortable, how do you think it would be to run a whole marathon barefoot? That's exactly what this guy below was doing, we spotted him as we ran around Djurgården in the middle part of the marathon. I like my barefoot (i.e. minimal) shoes, but this is next level, very impressive he must have strong achilles.
Djurgården is such a beautiful place to run, but somehow during the marathon it seems to drag a bit, especially through Norra Djurgården as you run through some less interesting semi-industrial parts of town. However one of the highlights of Djurgården is going past Kaknästornet, the old TV tower. At this point you are around half way. Despite her knee and now hip problems, Hanna was still running the same pace, showing me how she had come up with a new style to run in to reduce the pain in her knee and hip. It looked to me like the "high knees" warm up, and I had no doubt this would consume way more energy, but oh well, whatever works.
As we reached the end of Djurgården with around 12 kms to go I could see Hanna was in pain, but she seemed to be managing ok and I felt like she would push through the pain today and make it to the finish line. We had her family waiting to cheer us on back on Södermalm, which was a welcome distraction just before heading up over Västerbron the second time. For anyone who has a run a marathon before, you know those last 6kms. It is agony, and it feels like it takes forever. But we (she) got through, and even managed another smile as we finally entered the old olympic stadium towards the finish line.
We finished in 4:15 which was right on the adjusted time goal, so Hanna was happy, all things considered. Things really need to go your way leading up to as well as on marathon day, and in addition to a lot of training you need mental strength and toughness to get through it. With an injured knee and pain in the hip and I don't think I would have made it, but Hanna did. Impressive stuff and our relationship is still in tact too, so a good result all round!