Mark and I had a most wonderful kid-free weekend in sunny Stockholm, marred only by the fact that we ran the Stockholm marathon in the blazing heat on the Saturday, when other more sensible people were picnicking in the parks or swimming on the Stockholm archipelago!
No, it was good, really, and the support was tremendous, much better than expected...
Unlike most marathons which start early in the morning, the Stockholm marathon kicks off at 14.00, right in the heat of the day, which last Saturday was really quite intense (about 25-27 degrees), and just when the tarmac on the streets had had the chance to warm up nicely! A beautiful day for a picnic on the beach, but not for running a marathon! A girl from San Fransisco came in just after me and had almost expired with the heat and suffered serious cramping - " Hey, we get up at 5 a.m. to run when it is hot, we don't sit around and wait until the hottest part of the day"
Having said that, I must say that, unlike the dire situation at the Edinburgh marathon this weekend where the water was stolen, there were loads of drinks stations with water, quite a nice grapefruit and lemon flavoured sports drink called Maxim, vats of water to throw over you and showers to run under. Towards the end of the race there were stations serving knorr vegetable stock drink (nice and salty but no thanks), gherkins/pickles (again, no thanks), flat cola and bananas (yes please). Next time could we have slices of orange to suck on please!
And the race is really pretty - quite slow, crowded and unexpectedly hilly but very, very beautiful. Take a look at the official video for a taster.
It was not a day for personal bests. I actually ran 20 minutes slower than my target time of 3 hrs 29 and so I was quite disappointed with that. I think I was more set on getting my drinking strategy right so that I didn't cramp. I actually stopped at most of the drinks stations and went to the loo twice (that must have wasted about 5 minutes!).
The result of that is that my recovery was almost immediate and I had no particular stiffness over the following days, unlike my normal state which usually entails the total avoidance of stairs etc! "Should've tried harder", my husband keeps reminding me. It might also be because there were lots of high G.I.carbs in the goodie bag, which I managed to get down me immediately to replenish my glycogen levels, within the magic 15 minute window when the muscles are at their most receptive.
I'm quite amazed and very chuffed to see that I came 38th in my age group and 227th overall (women, that is).
So, to the pre-marathon meal. This was fab! We found a delightful little Italian restaurant called Paparazzi and had the most amazing fresh pasta - better than I have ever cooked myself. I had papardelle with lobster in a cream and brandy sauce (I would normally avoid creamy sauces and seafood before a marathon, but I couldn't resist). Luckily it wasn't too rich and the lobster was very fresh. After the marathon we were taken to the coolest bar in Stockholm, apparently, the Lydmar Hotel, http://www.lydmar.com/ where we had the obligatory entrecote, delicious potatoes and salad, preceded by some of the best fish soup I have ever tasted. Someone once told me that Scandinavian food was nothing special, but I have to say that my experience of Swedish food was a very positive one. Perhaps that is because I avoided the hotdogs and meatballs (yes, just like you get in Ikea) which seemed to be on offer everywhere!