Stockholm Marathon 2004: Race report

So, finally after training for this since new year’s, I was standing
in the starting pen for this year’s Stockholm Marathon. I did not feel
well. For the last couple of days, the right side of my neck had felt
inflamed, and I felt like I was coming down with a cold of some
sort. To make matters worse, the sun and the general nervousness had
given me a headache. I took some pain relievers and hoped it would
pass somehow.

The starting pen was packed. 16000 runners had entered this year, I
don’t know how many of them showed up, but definitely most of them
(however, only 9957 finished) After a lot of waiting, the start was
announced and — absolutely nothing happened. I was in the last
starting pen, and it took at least a minute before people even could
start moving. It took us a little over five minutes to reach the
starting line, at which time the pace had picked up to a slow jog.

1. Lidingövägen-Valhallavägen

During the first kilometer, the street was packed with
runners. It was possible to advance a few positions if you really
wanted to, but as I liked the pace, I just went with the flow. I saw
one runner in full military camouflage, including thick helmet and
backpack, one in a chicken costume, and one runner with black
metal-style corpsepaint. I hope he had waterproof makeup.

2. Vallhallavägen-Filmhuset

At this point, I started to look for the paceholders in the race. They
were supposed to have flags so that you could spot them in the crowd,
but it was hard to find anyone. I spotted a few people with finishing
times posted on their backs, but it turns out these people were
ordinary runners with an intention to make those times. Later in the
race, it became appearent that their intentions were not always
matched by their abilities (after about half the marathon, I saw a
couple of 5:00 runners ahead of a 4:15 runner). A few spectators were
present, which was fun, but they were very quiet. After reading
reports on Stockholm marathon by runners that have run in other
countries, the consensus seem to be that the swedish crowds are
numerous, but a silent.

3. Lindarängsvägen

This kilometre saw us leaving the city and enter the greener
surroundings of Gärdet. Just at the exit of Vallhallavägen, there was
a heavy rock band playing from a lorry. They were no Entombed, but it
was good to hear some heavy music all the same. The running still felt
really easy, but I continually reminded myself that I should take it
easy and keep my own pace. At this point, my headache had
dissappeared, but my right foot started to hurt real bad.

4. Lindarängsvägen-Kaknäsvägen

At this point, the road got a lot narrower, and so it got a little
more crowded again. I saw Ian, who was arranging a refreshment
station with punsch (a swedish liquour), but I didn’t manage to say
hi due to the crowd.

5. Kaknäsvägen-Djurgårdsbrunnsvägen

This kilometre saw the first real refreshment station, where wet
sponges was also passed out. Ever since the start, the sun had been
shining, and it felt really good to cool down a little. I ended up
keeping the sponge during the whole race, like a little mascot. I had
another Ipren (pain reliver) with some water at this station, which
seemed to kill off the pain in the foot for good. There were new pains
to come, though. At this point, we also saw our first official race
clock. I didn’t have my own clock, so it was good to see how I was
doing. Fairly well, my first 5 km took around 31 minutes.

6. Djurgårdsbrunnsvägen-Dag Hammarskjölds Väg

This kilometer was run in the blistering sun, with no shadows of any
kind. Spectators began to appear again, cheering a little more this
time around.

7. Engelska Kyrkan-Strandvägen

At this stage, we began to get back into the city again. I think this
was where I first encountered the run-through showers. Those were
really great, as it was still pretty hot.

8. Strandvägen-Kungsträdgården

The second refreshment station was near the end of Strandvägen. At this
stage, I still felt pretty good and was eager to push on, so i tried
to drink while running. Not a good idea, most of the water ended up on
my clothes. Apparently, both Marika and my aunt was standing at
Kungsträdgården, wanting to cheer for me, but I missed them both. At
this stage, there was a lot of spectators, and a fair amount of
cheering. It did help, as I was beginning to feel a little tired at
this stage (did I mention that it was hot?)

9. Kungsträdgården-Slussen

This kilometre went through the middle of Stockholm, over bridges and
with plenty of sights to see on all sides. Since I’ve lived here for
quite some years, I wasn’t that impressed and enjoyed the second
run-through shower much more.

10. Slussen-Söder Mälarstrand

A lot of cheering people at Slussen, as well as the first photo
opportunity. A company called Photomotion had their
photographers stationed around the course, the idea being that they
take your picture, identify you by the number bib, and offer to sell
the picture to you later. I’ll have to see how they turned out.

11. Söder Mälarstrand

Söder Mälarstrand is a fairly long, straight stretch, with not much
variation, but here I encountered the 10-km timing mat, which you run
over and, through the magic of the timing chip fastened to your shoe,
your time is recorded. I did the first 10-km in 1.06.06, which I’m
pretty happy with, since I was trying to conserve energy. At the
refreshment station, I took my first shot of energy gel (I had six
shots in total), which really worked. At this stage, I hardly felt
tired at all, but my feet and knees had started to hurt a little.

12. Söder Mälarstrand-Västerbron

Yet more running on flat ground, leading up to the feared Västerbron
(”West bridge”) At the base of the bridge Erik, Helene and Filippa was
standing, cheering for me. I went over and exchanged a few
words. Cheered up, I went on for Västerbron. This is a bridge that’s
also the highest part of the course, going from 5 m above ground to
around 30 in only a few hundred meters. I did manage to run the entire
climb, and was fairly satisfied with myself.

13. Västerbron-Rålambhovsparken

At the crest of the bridge, I exchanged a couple of brief words with a
danish runner in his 50’s, saying that ”Now the worst is over”. Little
did I know… The slope down was nice after the hill climb, but it was
almost too steep. At the end of the bridge, there was another
run-through shower, again made full use of. Rålambshovsparken is one
of the nicest and biggest parks in Stockholm, and normally on a
Saturday there are lots of people there, but I can’t really recall how
many spectators there were. I think I was just longing for the next
refreshment station, which appeared at the end of
Rålambshovsparken. At this stage I started to take longer walks while
making sure I drank at least two cups of energy drink.

14. Norr Mälarstrand

My standard 9 km course goes by Norr Mälarstrand, so this was familiar
ground. Although, when I run it, i run on the small path near the
water, but of course that wasn’t an option this time.

15. Stadshuset

Close to Stadshuset, a calypso band was playing, and a lot of pretty
smiling girls were samba dancing. If I recall correctly, clouds began
to appear around this point.

16. Stadshuset-Fleminggatan

Fleminggatan slopes slightly upward, so I took my time at the
refreshment station here. When I had run my practice runs, I’ve missed
the exit to this street, due to me running at small path close to the
water. You have to run on the alsphalt street to get to
Fleminggatan. At the refreshment station, I had my second energy gel
shot, and continued to do one every other station. The energy
gel
didn’t taste that good, though, sort of a syrupy kind of fluid
with a slight citrus taste.

17. Fleminggatan-S:t Eriksbron

Now we were starting to get close to where I live. I often walk over S:t
Eriksbron to Fridhemsplan (close to where S:t Eriksgatan and
Fleminggatan cross). Again, a lot of people were cheering at this
stage.

18. S:t Eriksbron-Odengatan

At the end of S:t Eriksbron, a sign saying that grape sugar was
dispensed 100 m ahead appeared. Great! At this point, my knees started
to get really tired, and I could use a energy boost.

19. Odengatan-Karlavägen

At this point, cars with the current race time started to pass us, so
I got the feeling that the leaders of the race, now on their second
lap, was close to us. And sure enough, two racers soon sped past us in
the left lane. It’s one thing to see how these people run on TV, but a
whole different thing when you’re running beside them, having almost
half a half marathon behind you. Truly impressive. Most of us runners
still on the first lap applauded as they went by.

20. Karlavägen-Sturegatan

Now we were starting to get really close to the end of the first
lap. On my practice runs, I had usually been a lot more tired at this
stage, but now my worst problem was the increasing pain in my knees
and legs.

21. Sturegatan-Fältöversten

At Sturegatan, people were passing out pickles, of all things. I took
one, thinking that it would be good to replenish some salt, but it
tasted really really bad, so I quickly spit it out. Speaking of which,
the amount of junk (cups, sponges, pickles, grape sugar tablets)
beeing thrown on the street was absolutely staggering. People were
showeling junk away all the time.

22. Fältöversten-Gärdet

Soon after Fältöversten, the 21.1 km timing station was set
up. I clocked at 2.20.32, which was ok, but I had really hoped that I
would do better, to around 2.10. I had, however, advanced from place
9045 to 8967 (which I didn’t know at the time)!

23. Greve von Essens Väg

I had told myself that I would allow myself to start walking after
21.1 km, but for some reason I kept on running. At this point, the sky
was more or less completely cloud-covered, which probably was a good
thing, but it would have been nice to run this part, leading away from
the city into green surroundings, in some sunshine. I think it was
somewhere around here that bananas were handed out. Unfortunately,
they were pre-peeled and stored in big jars, so they were
slightly… icky.

24. Greve von Essens Väg-Djurgårdsbrunnsbron

At this stage, my legs finally gave in, and I started walking. I had
passed plenty of people that were walking up to this point, so I felt
it was only fair. However, I got a little stressed by all the people
passing me, so I started running soon again.

25. Manillavägen-Djurgårdsvägen

This part had some hills, which was fun, but I started to walk up the
hills, to save my knees. Normally, these are really nice surroundings,
with beautiful nature, but I was a little past being able to admire
that now, particularly as the sun wasn’t shining anymore.

26. Djurgårdsvägen

Ah this point, my mood started to change. There were no spectators, no
sun, my knees and feet hurt, and the pace was really slow, so there
were no things to pick me up. I considered getting my mp3 player from
my pocket and use some music to cheer me up, but decided against it, as
music mostly seem to help me in the beginning of a run. A few days
before the race, I decided that I would mostly run without music, so
as to not shield myself from the other runners, the crowd, and the
general vibe.

27. Djurgårdsvägen

…and this part was just more of the same.

28. Djurgårdsvägen-Strandvägen

At this stage, leading in to the city, we passed a house where 7-8
kids where standing, hands outstretched, and whenever a runner
high-fived them they would cheer. So I did that, and it really cheered
me up, as well. Thanks, kids!

29. Strandvägen-Kungsträdgården

Although the sun was not shining anymore, it was still kind of hot, so
I took one water cup at the refreshment station and poured it over my
head. I quickly found out that there was more in the cup that I had
thought, as the front of my shirt got troughly soaked. Now I started
to really miss the sun, since it got cold. I realized the only way to
get the water out was to keep running to evaporate it. So that’s what
I did.

30. Kungsträdgården-Slussen

At the bridge over to Gamla stan, on the way to Slussen, my knees gave
out again, and I started walking again. Of course, that’s when a
photomotion photographer appeared and took my picture. I wish I had
faked a couple of running steps.

31. Slussen-Söder Mälarstrand

Here was the 30-km timing mat. I clocked at 3.26.41, and advanced my
position from 8967 to 8965. Not much, but still! Of course, at the
time I did not know this, and so I plodded on.

32. Söder Mälarstrand

Veteran runners say that the last 10 km are much harder than all the
kilometres leading up to them, and I can see what they mean. At this
point, I was hurting all over, the energy gel was not of much use (it
wasn’t that I hadn’t the energy, it was my feet and knees being worn
out), spectators had begun to go home, and even the arrangers was less
entusiastic than on the previous lap.

33. Söder Mälarstrand-Västerbron

Here, Erik, Rickard and Niklas was standing and cheering for me. I
paused for a while, talking, and they convinced me that even though
4.30 was out of the question, I might still make 5.00. With renewed
self-confidence, I started running again, but had to walk the ”hard”
part of västerbron (the bridge has a fairly flat part with just a
little ascent, but following that, there’s a much steeper part). Some
traffic passed us on the left side of the bridge, and when a pickup
truck passed, I briefly thought of jumping abord it.

34. Västerbron-Rålambhovsparken

The slope down from västerbron went fairly well, and I managed to keep
running all the way to the refreshment station. At this point, my spirit
wasn’t that high. I kept telling myself ”only 8 more kilometres to go,
that’s nothing, I can do this!”, but I didn’t really convince myself.

35. Norr Mälarstrand

Some percussionists were playing along the way, and the Swiss fanclub
had a couple of lawn chairs up, drinking beer and cheering on. Were
there a lot of Swiss people running this year?

36. Stadshuset

The samba girls were still present, but they weren’t smiling much, and
mostly seemed to want to go home. At this point, I wanted to,
too. Kept telling myself how short of a distance it was left, and that
I knew every step of the way.

37. Stadshuset-Fleminggatan

There were a lot of Finnish people cheering around here. And a lot of
Finnish people in the race. I even heard something about there being
more finns in Stockholm marathon than in Helsinki marathon, can this
be true?

38. Fleminggatan-S:t Eriksbron

While most of the streets where the marathon ran was totally closed of
for car traffic, S:t eriksgatan was only half closed off, so there was
a bit of traffic beside us. Still, I think this wasn’t the best day to
be driving in Stockholm.

39. S:t Eriksbron-Odengatan

Passing S:t Eriksplan, I briefly thought about taking a detour to my
apartment to get my knee support thingy (I tried running with one
during practice, but decided against it for the race, since it made
actual leg bending movement harder). But that would have meant running
an extra 500 meters, so that was out ouf the question. Again, they
passed out grape sugar tablets. The ground was white for the next 100
meters, of all the dropped tablets that had been crushed under
runner’s feet.

40. Odengatan-Karlavägen

At this point, I passed a car with a race timer, which said that I had
to run the last two kilometres in six minutes in order to achieve my
5:00 goal. Needlessly, this didn’t feel at all achievable, and so, I
started walking again. But there’s something about beeing passed by
the other runners that bring out the competitivness in me, and so I
started running again soon after.

41. Karlavägen-Sturegatan

Now I felt that the goal was within reach, which lifted my spirits,
and so I decided to try and run the last part. I think I gained more
than a few positions during this stretch. No pickles was passed out
this time around, which was just as well.

42.2 Sturegatan-Stadion

It was great to see the sight of Stadion. I didn’t really know how the
last part of the course was laid out, so I got a little frustrated
when it dawned on me that we had to run outside the entire lenght of
the stadium, and enter through a back entrance. But entering the
stadium was great. The first thing I saw was this giant ”Välkommen i
mål” (Welcome to the goal) message on the light screen, then I saw the
crowd, who was still numerous, even though the race had been going on
for five hours. The last 200 meters took place on the running track,
which felt so much better to my feet than the asphalt. I even
increased the pace slightly. Looking at the race clock at the goal, I
saw that I came in at around 5.04, but since I crossed the starting
line about five minutes after race start, my effective time was
4:59:09, and my place was 8743, meaning that I overtook over 200
runners in the last 12 km! That’s not so bad.

Here’s the result page for me

Afterwards, I was of course exhausted. I got my medal and stretched
for a while, but since most of the pain was in my knees and feet, I
had no idea of how to tend to them. There was a tent set up from a
massage school where I probably could have gotten some help, but it
had an insanely long line. Instead, I got some bread, chocolate and
soft drinks to start the recovery process, after which I went home.

So, was it worth it? The five months of intense training, all focused
on this race, and the five hours of running, the pain in the knees,
the loniness of the second lap, the nausea later at night? Of course
it was. Immediately after finishing, I was dissappointed with my
finishing time, as I had aimed for 4:30 (actually, I originally
trained for 4:00), but with a few hours of perspective, I’m really
happy that I finished at all. I think that most people have the
ability to get in the shape needed to finish a marathon, but very few
ever do. I’m glad I managed to, and I’m happy I managed to reach the
goal that I set for myself over five months ago. I’m now looking
forward to resting for quite some time without feeling bad about
it. Some say that the recovery period should be the same as the number
of miles in the race (26 in this case). Sounds about right.

Would I do it again? I don’t know. I sort of proved that I could do
it, running it again wouldn’t prove anything. But it would be great to
be able to run the race through, and to get my time closer to 4
hours. And in particular, running the New York Marathon would be
really cool…

3 reaktioner till “Stockholm Marathon 2004: Race report”

  1. I really enjoyed reading your honest account of the race, I am thinking of entering next year and your account has spurred me on to do so.

  2. Great! Thanks for reminding me of it — since I’m running the New York Marathon later this year, it was fun to think back on how it really is to run a marathon. I can still remember what a runner’s high it was when I, around the 41th kilometer, realized that I was going to make it.

  3. Hi Staffan, I came across this page this morning, and really enjoyed reading your journal of the race. What a good writer you are (in English as well!) The 2009 Stockholm Marathon will be this weekend and, as I will be cheering on from the sidelines on Vallhallavägen, I will remember your words. Take care.

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