In December, my readers heard from my friend Laurel as she shared her first marathon experience in Helsinki, Finland. Today she continues Part II of her story with two more running adventures! After reading these, I can understand why people get the bug to sign up for overseas/destination races. Leave a comment below to tell us about your favorite overseas race experience or even better…message me to share your story as my next guest blogger!
Guest Blogger: Laurel Wemhoff
Stockholm Ultra Marathon
In my previous post I talked about my first half marathon and how it inspired me to sign up for my first full marathon. This post will be about two other marathons I have completed: the Stockholm Ultra and Oslo Marathons.
Now many of you might not believe this, but after I finished my first marathon I felt so great, I said to myself, “I think I could have kept running!” Crazy, I know.
I decided to register for the Stockholm Ultra Marathon, taking place August 9, 2014. There were two distance options: 50k and 100k. I chose to do the 50k.
My parents were still living abroad at this time, so they agreed to meet me in Stockholm and my older sister and best friend also flew over from the States. I’m telling you-having a cheering squad makes all the difference. After running the Helsinki City Marathon the previous year in August, I realized that summer in Scandinavia was a great time to run. I remember when I was training for this race in June and July, it was incredibly humid in D.C. I figured it would give me an advantage to train in the extreme heat and humidity, since Stockholm would be a bit cooler and less humid. To my surprise, and to everyone in Sweden, August of that year was one of the warmest on record for them. It was in the 90’s, humid, and very sunny. It turned out that my training paid off. J
The course for the 50k had more gravel and trails than pavement. It took place on an island, right outside of Stockholm, and consisted of six, 5 mile loops. There were not many runners in both the 50 and 100k races. When I was at the start line, I met another American girl, from California, who was studying abroad in Denmark. She told me that she had to buy all new running gear because the airline lost her luggage–including her shoes, shorts, and other clothes. Lesson learned: If you’re traveling by plane for a race, be sure to keep your gear in your carry-on bag. I always make sure I carry my shoes on the plan, because those are what I have been training in and what my feet are used to. Running a marathon in brand new shoes should be avoided at all costs.
Because this was a smaller race, with not a lot of runners, the course itself was very pleasant to run. There were aid stations and food every 3 miles or so, where they had coke, pickles, chocolate, granola bars, Gatorade, water, and mixed nuts. Right by the start/finish line they had tents set up for runners to stop and get a massage, either during or after the race. With about 2 more laps to go I had to stop and have the therapists massage my calves and hamstrings. They were throbbing like I have never experienced before. If I wouldn’t have stopped for that 20 minute massage, my time would have been better, but who knows if my muscles would have been able to continue without it!
My most recent marathon took place in September of 2016 in Oslo, Norway. This was the third race I had done in Scandinavia. As like previous marathons, I wanted to run a race on or around my birthday, and combine it with a mini vacation. My sister, who lives in Barcelona, decided to sign up to run the half marathon. We both flew into Oslo and explored for a couple of days, to adjust from the jet lag and orient ourselves with the city.
The marathon consisted of two 13.1 mile loops throughout Oslo. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to run a race; t was in the 70’s and sunny with a few clouds. I was so fortunate to have my sister there with me. Her half-marathon didn’t start until 2pm that afternoon, whereas the marathon started at 9am. She was able to see me at a few different points along the route. I know I’ve said this before, but having people, or even just someone, cheer you on makes a huge difference. It gives you that extra kick of endorphins to keep going and stay positive.
Out of the three marathons that I’ve done, I have to say that the Helsinki City Marathon was by far the best. I think that because it was my first marathon, it will always hold a special place in my heart. Oslo takes second place, due to the beauty of the city and the race course. The Stockholm Ultra stands out for the simple reason it was a 31 mile race instead of 26.2.
Denmark and Iceland are the two Scandinavian countries I haven’t yet run…so stay tuned!