Stockholm Marathon 2015 – Flyer on tour – by Richard Pryor
I guess I can blame this run on Facebook! My feed gradually filling with orange last year caught the attention of an old school friend, Colin, who got in touch to say my running had made him want to start running again. As an experienced marathon runner in the 80’s and 90’s, mainly the London Marathon, seeing my exploits, after years off, he was keen to get fit and run again. “Let’s run the Stockholm marathon” he said, I’m up for most things and so “I’m game” was the response.
So forward wind 8 months and we are on the flight to Stockholm. Flight to hotel just 3 1/2 hours, and arriving on the Thursday gave us a clear day Friday to relax before the Saturday race. A quick visit to the expo adjacent to the 1912 Olympic stadium saw registration for the c22,000 runner event done very efficiently, and time to buy a commemorative Stockholm marathon shirt in flyers colours, it would be rude not to…..
Then we had a day and half sightseeing Stockholm, a city linking 14 islands, being the cultural centre of Sweden, lots to see, the palace, the old town, plus lots of coffee stops and the odd beer or two and some meatballs. The boat and bus tours gave us a great flavour of a beautiful city, the fresh air and friendly locals. What was noticeable however was a lack of ‘pre marathon buzz’ about the place, a distinct feeling that no one in the city was particularly aware of bothered that a marathon was taking place tomorrow.
That evening, we met up with a friend of Colin’s, Steve, for our last pasta loading, he was more anxious than us as he was suffering shin splints, which he had put down to overtraining. I was actually surprised how relaxed I was feeling, my training was solid. Papa’s plan for Brighton in the bank, followed by a gruelling 30 mile training run and then a couple of weeks holiday in the sun had left me feeling refreshed and ready.
So race morning, a short walk to the stadium, I joined Colin and Steve in pen J, which turned out to be the last pen, for the slowest. It’s then when it struck me this wasn’t a London or Brighton, no social runners to be seen, no fun runners costumed up alongside the more serious runners, no obvious charity runners, even the slowest runners in the pen looked very fit and focussed! Perhaps that’s the Scandinavian way, they are a nation full of fit good looking people, and the mood reflected it. My run hope was to beat Brighton, 4.44. Starting line selfie done and with a surprising lack of butterflies we were off, and on cue, the forecasted heavy ran swept in, with the wind.
I decided to go quick (for me) for the first half, aiming for 9.30’s, to see what I could get into the bank, in these conditions it was going to be a tough one, running the race on my own with music (for the 1st time). It was a serious atmosphere throughout, I don’t think I spoke to anyone the whole way around (hard to believe I know), I was feeling glad I had the Bee Gees and the Light house family (plus others) to keep me company (remind me to take Ed Sheeran’s song about ‘when your legs don’t work anymore’ off my run playlist!!) During the run, I felt strong past 13 miles, plenty of jazz hands offered to the photographers as you do… past 18 miles and soon it was just two parkruns to go. The rain thou, it just got heavier and heavier, lasting the whole race, and the chilled wind blowing in off the water, roads with lakes of water, madness.
The fuel stations with the bananas, hot vegetable soup (the soup was a highlight) and coffee were godsends in the last third, what wasn’t though was the Stockholm folk deciding to go home and get dry and warm rather than line the last few miles lifting the runners home. A damp squib in more ways than one. Fortunately I was flying, I can be a funny old fool sometimes but I’d seen several board and banner call outs for ‘Lisa’ on the way around, never seen that before, and I did feel her (my Lisa) with me, lifting me around the course, (those who know me will understand). One last turn and into the Olympic stadium to finish, it was 3/4 full, and some cheers saw the runners home.
Checking the watch, Garmin told me 4.28 time, flashing a new PB for 26.2 miles of 4.19, total of 27 miles ran, avoiding the puddles! I was drenched, but elated. Walking around punching the air like a madman. Chip time (and official PB time) was confirmed at 4.27.38, and I was so pleased to get a sub 4.30, 15 minutes off my last PB. Fabulous medal too. Next into the men’s changing tent, hundreds of men stripping bare, lots of wet and steaming bodies, but after one of those accidental bending over naked butt touching moments, I made it a very quick change and I was dry and out of there! Then the Stockholm refuel bank of tents, a beer was followed by two hot dogs (when in Sweden), an enormous chocolate bar, two cakes and a cup of hot wine… Lovely, good job, well done.
So reflecting on the weekend, my overriding feeling is pride in representing the flyers on tour and doing both myself and them proud, a 15 minute PB, and feeling strong through it. Colin got round in 5.45, he was really pleased, and Steve and his painful shin splints made it round in 4.45. Perversely I think the weather probably helped, it might be easier running in heavy rain than the sun and warm. The conditions and memories of the weekend will make this is one medal I will particularly cherish.
As for the race, very well organised, but for me it lacked the balance of also the fun and social vibe I like to tap into when I run. That said, it was an interesting route through the city, around the old town, into the woods, with a part repeat loop, and it’s not everyday you get to cross a finish line in an historic Olympic stadium, plus it’s beautiful city, not overly expensive. I’d recommend it as a race you can build a long weekend around. Just hope the sun stays out and perhaps with it, the local crowds. So Colin, where’s the next adventure to be, and perhaps I’ll bring some flyers with me as well next time……?