Wednesday, September 17, 2014

RACE REPORT: Stockholm half marathon (DN Stockholm halvmarathon)

This past Saturday, David and I ran in the 2014 DN Stockholm half marathon, along with 18 000 other runners from every country, age, race and fitness level that you can imagine. This was my first half marathon and the first time that I have run in a competition with so many partipants, so I was a bit uncertain as to what I should expect when I woke up on Saturday morning. 

Leading up to this race, I've been following training program that I found online that basically includes 3 runs a week of increasing distances over a 10 week period. I chose this plan over several others because it felt the most manageable. (And who cares that it's published by Women's Health Magazine? Running is running, right?) Even with work and kids and other activities, 3 days a week is not too hard to schedule in. (It turned out that one of the R&R weeks even coincided with Cykelvasan!) 

Having trained regularly, I've been looking forward to this event, but unfortunately I woke up on Saturday morning with a bit of a headache and a bit of soreness in my calves from a workout that I'd done the previous Thursday. I was really thinking "How is this going to go?", but after a good breakfast and a hearty lunch of spaghetti bolognese I started feeling much better, and my the time we arrived in Kungsträdgården in Stockholm, I was feeling quite good. 

The weather on Saturday was perfect for a long run: partially cloudy, no wind to speak of and temperatures between 15-20C. I collected my start number and chip and had plenty of time to take in the festivities since I was starting in the second-to-last group (Group G). 

The start takes place on Stockholm's oldest preserved bridge, Norrbro, in front of the Royal Palace. The start groups are coralled into fenced-in pens and there is not much room to warm up as you've got people all aroud you. But then the gate opens and the whole crowd starts moving towards the starting line and then "Bang!" up Brunkebergsåsen, quickly into a tunnel, then back in the open air and onto Vasagatan. After the first two kilometres, the third goes only slightly uphill along the railway on Torsgatan, up to Odengatan and then down, down, down to Kungsholms strand. Here you are along the waterfront before climbing one of the toughest kilometres over a hill before continuing left up to Drottningholmsvägen, then right towards Västerbroplan and around the school of Rålambshov before decending down to the park with the same name. At this point, the course is over half complete having rounded most of Kungsholmen. What an experience to run right through the Parliament Building on the way into Old Town! Continuing onwards to Slussen, the rest of the run is on the island of Södermalm. This section is primarily flat following the water instead of going up and down the demanding hill across Bergsund. Just as David had warned me, at kilometer 18 a long uphill stretch awaits, but then its downhill again towards Slussen. Here you meet the folks who are leaving Kungsholmen on their way to begin the part you've just completed. As I passed through here, the winners were already across the finish line! But then it's a sprint to the finish, right past where you started to the finish line on the bridge Norrbro.

My personal experience running this course was really great. I ran according to my heart rate monitor and tried to keep below 170 bpm for the entire run. This turned out to be a great strategy, as I was able to maintain a steady pace of around 4:41/km the entire race. In fact, the final km was my fastest at 4:17/km! I was really happy with my final time of 1:38:33, having set a goal beforehand of wanting to be under 1:40:00. 

Next adventure? I think I'm going to run the Fall River Half Marathon when I'm in Boston in October. 

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