Race Experiences – The Stockholm Marathon

See the picture above?  Yeah, race day was the exact freakin’ opposite!  If Stockholm had been my first marathon, I wouldn’t have done another.  The weather was just awful.  Rainy, windy, and cold enough that made the rain and wind problematic.  But as Big Boi and Andre 3000 told us all, “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.”  So with that in mind, let’s actually talk about the aspects of the race that were under people’s control.

The trip itself was AMAZING (I’ll detail it in a post at some point).  I can’t believe it’s already been 3 years.  However, due to a work conference, I ran the marathon at the end of the week, so I won’t pretend my nutrition was good in the week leading up to the race (Swedish meatballs are the way, the truth, and the light, people).  With that said, I was careful to minimize how much time I was on my feet the day before the race and cooked at the apartment we rented the night before.

The expo was easy enough to negotiate and I kept that part of the experience short since I was with my mom and my cousin, Gretchen, who are not runners.  On the day of the race, I used public transportation to get to the start/finish line, which was easy enough.  Stockholm’s subway is super clean and easy to navigate.  Getting off the train was a mob scene, but one where everyone was pretty chill.

The race started and finished at Stockholm’s Olympic Stadium which was built for the 1912 Games.  So, yeah, me and Jim Thorpe on the same track.  Clearly athletic equals.  but I digress, the start had a nice international flavor, with the announcer highlighting the number of competitors from each country and the stadium flying the flags of the 10 countries with the most participants.  The flags resonated since that’s as close as I’ll get to someone playing the anthem for my athletic accomplishments!!

It was drizzling on and off at the start, but it started raining in earnest just after the noon start.  The course was two loops – a shorter one through more central neighborhoods in Stockholm followed by a longer one that also included some of the outskirts of the city.  I really loved the course.  It took me through parts of the city I wouldn’t have otherwise seen and I’ll always be grateful for that experience.  Except passing the U.S. Embassy…such an ugly building.  With all the gorgeous architecture in the city, we pick a building that looks so institutional.  I didn’t need to see it.

Anywho, my favorite parts of the course included running past the Royal Palace, the long stretch along Söder Mälarstand, and the fields on the outskirts of the city before reentering Djurgården.  Now, with all that said, I did almost cry in front of the Royal Palace on the second lap.  The wind was gusting big time and it blew the guy next to me into me and, well, you know how the domino effect works.  Everyone stayed on their feet but it wasn’t pretty.  My knee also started to hurt bad enough that I stopped to stretch twice.  So you can imagine that by the time I hit mile 23-24, I was not happy.  Luckily, we were staying just off the course at that point and who do I see standing on the side of the road during that last stretch, but mom.  That hug from her made the race.

When you’re near tears, but see the race photographer…possibly the best race photo I’ve ever had taken!  But seriously, you can see that my shorts are soaked through and I think this was on the first lap.

Entering the stadium for a lap before crossing the finish line was also an indescribable experience.  The history of the stadium, the challenge of the race, it was amazing I kept my emotions (sort of) in check.  Just overwhelming.  But reality set back in quickly – I couldn’t find a heat sheet and it was a bit of a walk to the post-race support.  This was the one thing the organizers handled poorly.  I’m sure it was exacerbated by the crappy weather, but it was problematic for me.  I managed to pull myself together enough to walk to the subway.  Once on the train, I was shivering so badly a really nice Swedish woman asked if I needed help.  Embarrassing.  I did get back to the apartment safely, but needed mom’s help to get undressed and into the shower (things you can only ask of your nearest and dearest).

Had the weather not been so junky, I think this would have been a fantastic race.  Even with the weather and my stupid knee, I was less than a minute off my PR (which had I been paying closer attention, I would have powered through and PR’d…hindsight…).  It still evokes such positive memories for me and I’d run it again in a second (the rest of the week we were there was in the low 60s and sunny).  This Saturday is the 40th running of the race and I hope they have perfect weather!!!

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