June has arrived and there’s no better time to be a runner in Sweden. The eternal winter nights have given way to over 18 hours of daylight and the Swedes don’t let any of it go unused. It doesn’t take much prodding to get them outdoors at this time of year, but there are plenty of neat groups and events that make exercise, and running especially, sociable and fun.
One of the most inspiring and inclusive running programs I’ve come across yet is Runday, an idea that three elite runners (Lisa, Charlotte, and Linn) hatched in 2011 to promote running in Stockholm. What began as a free weekly run (Runday Monday) has since developed into a popular business that offers corporate training, personal training, lectures, workshops, training camps, and other running events throughout the city.
Despite the group’s growth, the free Runday Monday sessions still constitute the heart of the organization. Lisa, one of the founders and a former NCAA runner who has shown me all over Stockholm, invited me to attend one of the sessions last week (after our own run in the beautiful area). I was so impressed with what I saw as the coaches introduced passionate but untrained runners to the fundamentals of the sport as well as more advanced concepts like drills and dynamic stretching.
After a proper warm-up, the coaches, all of whom are young, bubbly, elite female runners, split up and gave the attendees three workout options: 3×5 minute hard efforts (mainly for those gearing up for the marathon the following weekend); 4-6×800 meters around a dirt track, surging the 100m backstretch of each lap; and a 40-minute circuit of jogging, drills, and strength exercises. They offered tips and encouragement to each runner and made sure they were all pushing themselves to an appropriate level.
All 100 or so runners who show up each week clearly want to learn, improve, and belong to an athletic community, and Runday is the perfect setting to achieve all of those. I find it truly awesome what the Runday gals and their group are doing to make running fashionable, fun, and a worthwhile activity for even the busiest worker and most recreational plodder, and I know their clients agree. I think there is so much value in sharing knowledge and structure with the masses, and I’d love to see groups with similar philosophies take off in the U.S. and elsewhere.
The Stockholm Marathon
Yesterday, Lisa and I teamed up to cheer on a handful of Runday clients, her running friends (about every other person in the race, by my calculations), and my host Brian in the Stockholm Marathon.
The course was scenic and spectator friendly and the weather, though a little cool and drizzly for spectators, was ideal for those competing.
I’m so thankful I had Lisa to dart around with because, in addition to great company all afternoon, I got the scoop on the field and to see the runners three times on the course as well as at the finish line in the historic 1912 Olympic Stadium. The runners that she works with did great, all finishing with pretty devastating kicks for the end of a marathon, and made her one very proud coach. While Brian didn’t have the race he was hoping for, he recognizes that his turnaround from the Manchester Marathon was a bit swift and is already fired up about laying a solid base for the fall racing season.
My Temporary Kenyan Brother
My final bit of this Swedish running update is actually less about Sweden than it is about Kenya! Last week, the Nielsen household increased by one and I gained a temporary brother when William, the Kenyan representative for Running Relations, arrived for his annual month in Sweden.
William has an upbeat, personable demeanor, an impressive 63-minute half marathon to his name, and the typical Kenyan love of ugali (which I’m thrilled about since it’s been nine months since I ate it with my Kenyan flatmates in London!). I only get to overlap with him for a week, but that’s plenty of time to scoop up some running tips, motivation, and an even stronger desire to visit Kenya.
Between my brother’s visit, spectacular trails, neat running events, and the Nielsen family’s generosity, May has been a month to remember. I’m moving to Finland tomorrow with wonderful memories and a heart full of gratitude for everyone, the Nielsens and Lisa especially, who have shown me the best of Stockholm. I’m not quite ready to brave the brutal Swedish winter, but y’all can expect to see me back here in the (warm-weathered) future!