29. September 2013

A runner's self-experiment: Lidingöloppet 2013

The annual racing series on Lidingö is extremely popular and was booked out way in advance this year. Out of curiosity (and because I succumbed to the excellent marketing), I took part amongst thousands of others in the 30km race on Lidingö. Here is a review of the event.

Lidingöloppet is a public event for the masses. More than 40.000 runners registered for several competitions on a single weekend. Given that I was a little afraid of traffic jam on the racing track – especially after having participated once in the annual Business Run in Munich where it was nearly impossible to run at all due to 30.000 runners distributed on a 7 km track.

However, to my delight, the race was mostly well-organized. The only troubles came up before the race started. Together with hundreds of other runners, I was waiting in front of the subway station in order to catch one of the organized buses that take the runners to the island. At the beginning, queue discipline was quite awesome. Honestly, I have never seen folks with more queue discipline (which generally does not mean much because queue discipline does not belong to the strengths of mankind). People were even patiently looking and asking for the tail of the queue whose tail grew organically in a spiral towards the middle such that the tail was really difficult to locate. Soon, though, the queue discipline broke because of too many people and especially because none of the organizers responded to the many suggestions that they might just organize the newcomers from the following subways a little bit. The result of the ignorance was that people caught taxis (I had no money with me and there must be other ways), a few people skipped the queue (I still had some morale left), or took public buses to all other passengers’ “delight”.

The race itself was very well-organized. The participants were seeded into different start groups based on finish times in other races. The seeding was strictly enforced because starting in the wrong startgroup would have lead to disqualification or time penalties. This way, there was no fighting at all who would be able to start first. Good idea and excellent implementation.

The 30km track led mostly over fields and on gravel through the forest. The track went up and down through the hilly landscape. I am not accustomed with slopes since there are no slopes at all in my hometown in Germany. Despite of the seeding, there were still a lot of runners on the tracks (which makes overtaking difficult but also prevents one from slowing down, too). There were regular stops along the way that served water. These stops are called vätskekontroll (fluid control) in Swedish, which made me feel like a running machine that from time to time needs to have its oil level inspected. A nice feature were the Swedish sweets (chokladbollar and gifflar) and to my astonishment – pre-peeled bananas (of course not being re-wrapped). In total, I was positively surprised by this mass event.

Thanks to my fellows from LA Garching for all the exercise!