After London I wanted an autumn challenge to keep me running. First thought had been the Winter marathon which goes in November, but after a few recommendations I decided on Sörmland Ultra – a 50km terrain ultra that runs mostly on the first part of the Sörmlandsleden (Stockholm’s version of the Pennine Way if you will).
I’ll be honest in that my training prior had been my usual 3-4 runs a week including a few trail runs where I found far too many mushrooms for them to be effective (though good for my mood), and a couple of runs around 25km, with the Stockholm half marathon a month prior. I didn’t really have any goal other than taking myself to the finish line, though I thought it would take 6-7 hours to get there (haha). I was therefore rightly quite nervous in the leadup and on the morning of the race.
My usual race breakfast is seedy filled museli and yoghurt with plenty of coffee on the side (for getting my insides moving reasons ;-)), but this time I went for peanut butter on toast and lashings of coffee – it didn’t quite have the same effect, though my stomach held for the entire day (including drive home) so I honestly can’t complain. After breakfast it was time to go for the bus, which left Huddinge at 8:18. I’d cut catching it pretty fine, and ended up jogging down to Huddinge (more km, go me!). The bus and the tunnelbanana journey was pretty uneventful aside from the fog meaning I got a bit lost in Skarpnäck or whatever that place was called – thanks to googlemaps for setting me straight.
When I got off the tunnelbanana in Bjorkhägen I saw a couple behind me, the girl dressed similarly to me – which made me wonder if they also were going to be running – on the way out of the station I managed to pluck up the courage to ask them whether they were running the ultra, and which way it was to the start – and yes, she was running and there were signs and people directing us to the start – woohoo. We got chatting as we walked along to collect our numbers, and it turned out that we had similar goals in mind (finishing, and smiling!) so at some point along the way of collecting numbers and getting changed we decided to stick together. We met Elin (of pink-haired runstreak fame) and Kajsa Berg (Huddinge AIS of awesome running ability and 10 month old twins fame!) in the changing rooms, and then on the way to the start I bumped into another lady I’d met through instagram.
Everyone at the start line was trying to stay warm in the sun (it was quite cold!), but also seemed really cheery and friendly – which was nice. The start was delayed 15minutes, but it seemed like seconds passed till it was time to run! At that point I definitely was trying not to think about how long we were about to set out for- I was mostly amazed at the number of people in shorts.
The first bit was a loop around the woods, as we got settled into running we chatted a bit about what we did, what an environmental engineer (I think that was it anyway!) did and random things, the first part of the race was a bit confusing as there was another race in the area the same day – but aside from a couple of bloopers we found our way, and met another lady – who had helped remove the markers the year previously – which was definitely a bonus in knowing the route! And so we were three.
The company definitely kept me going, especially the first 17?km before we reached the first checkpoint – the going was quite slow on the trails, but time was flying somehow. At the first checkpoint we met a few more runners (most were I guess way ahead of us), and were offered fine delights such as peanuts, gherkins and cinamon buns – with coffee or energy drink (plus firemen!) after a brief pause we continued on our way.
Sörmlandsleden is really beautiful I have to say. At around 20km we climbed a steep rock face and were met with the most beautiful views over a lake, there was another bit (not sure how far in!) where there were really pretty waterfalls, and another where there was a bridge over a lake – simply stunning views.
After the first checkpoint, they came more frequently – every 8-9km if I remember correctly, with the last two checkpoints pretty close to each other (and the end) – this made it a little easier to fathom and split up, though the part around 30km where we were mostly on ass-phalt or tracks was pretty boring. Luckily the company more than made up for it, and while my feet and body were getting tired, my head was (aside from a headache that I think was due to brain-freeze) in a good place, that I’m certain it wouldn’t have been in if I had been alone.
Just prior to 40km we came to the energy station we had been dreaming of – the one that had CRISPS! That was amazing, we’d been talking about crisps quite a bit by that point (I think we were probably getting sick of sweet energy drinks etc) and while the gherkins and peanuts were awesome, we were ready for some new deliciousness to take us further.
It was awesome to reach 42km and know that every step I took beyond that was a record for me, by that point we’d been on our feet for over 6 hours – so even that was a record! Though other than meeting more ASS-phalt and also a mosquito down my throat the bit to Rudan, where we did our final few km was a bit of a walk-run-ouch blur!
Once at Rudan, there was the last energy station before the finish line, and there was homebrew IPA, which definitely dulled the pain of the final few hills round Rudan – which one of my co-runners accurately described as ‘kinda like those half-pipe things they have at tough viking’ geez – I’m not sure I could have ran up them if I wasn’t tired out. The light by this point was also dull – Memories of running around there have an almost dream like quality (including singing ‘we are the champions’ and ‘like a virgin’). At some point we realised we didn’t have that much time till max time (8 hours), but I’m not sure how much we sped up – I think those I was running with could have gone faster, but I was pretty much empty.
We crossed the line 7hours 53minutes after we started – exhausted but happy. It still feels pretty surreal, but it also feels good – the event itself was very well organised – everyone was super friendly and helpful. I definitely want to run it again and see if I can improve my time (there are people who must seriously fly).