Murdo said :
I always fancied the Stockholm marathon and while trawling for details early last year learned there would be an extra one-off marathon in July 2012. This was an addition to the normal Stockholm marathon, the well established annual, flat, event held every June.
This special marathon was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Marathon and was to follow the same course, including the start and finish in the beautiful Olympic stadium, from 100 years ago. As this was a unique event, I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity and joined the online friends group to be kept updated. Phil Humphries also said he’d be interested and, along with Elly and Nicola providing support, we decided to make a wee break of it.
The entries to the race went public in July 2011 and sold out in 48 hours; thankfully we both got our applications in and were confirmed. Nicola and I had visited Stockholm in February 2005 (when it was literally Baltic!) and had stayed at a refurbished Prison on one of Stockholm’s 14 islands and, after telling Phil and Elly, we all booked into the cells. We went out for a week while Phil and Elly came out Thursday to Sunday (race on Saturday).
The 1912 Marathon:
I’ve included the fascinating history of the 1912 marathon at the end of the report. It includes details of the race, the organisation, participants, medical arrangements and times etc. There are also details about two specific records set: the longest time ever taken to complete the marathon (54 years!) and regrettably the very first Olympic competitor fatality.
The 2012 Marathon:
The location for the expo, race start and finish was the Olympic Stadium. This is the original 1912 venue; the oldest Olympic stadium still used for sports, and is a beautiful, brick built building. The expo was held on the lawns behind the stadium where you picked up your number (incorporating timing chip), knotted hankie (as in 1912) and cotton goodie bag with leaflets, sweets etc. The expo wasn’t your usual event, more like a village fete with stalls of food and crafts all manned by staff in 1912 period costume. The marathon volunteers were also in costume and there was a small selection of period cars and motor cycles etc as well as a period band. No running kit or paraphernalia on sale! There were also guided tours of the stadium, a 20 minute silent film of 1912 Olympics and a 30 minute lecture (in English) with slides of the marathon. Universally excellent although the lecturer had a rather monotone tone which combined with a warm hall meant it was a bit of a struggle despite the content being interesting. As the race wasn’t till Saturday afternoon you could pick up your number on Friday or Saturday morning (we all went Friday morning). The only really bad weather of our week was a heavy hail shower complete with great flashes of lightning and Norse-god thunder during our stadium tour. Elly and Phil missed the fun as they had left on the Metro by this time. All in all a very relaxing introduction (although extraordinarily well organised in that deceptively casual Scandinavian way that we would see over and over again during the weekend) and we all left smiling – which is good!
Race day – one of the bonuses of staying in our prison was a huge buffet breakfast; lots of fruits, yogurts, cereals, breads and cooked options – suffice to say we got our money’s worth! The Metro took us directly from the hotel area to the Stadium in about 15 minutes and as the first start wasn’t till 1348 (as in 1912), we had a relaxing morning. Nicola and Elly had decided to enter into the spirit of the event and got dressed 1912 stylie, both looked fabulous, travelled in costume to and from the stadium and were positively commented on and well photographed while we were away “enjoying ourselves”. There were changing facilities and baggage drop on the playing field at the adjoining sports centre – lots of room, coffee, biscuits and drinks available. Unusually there was also a facility to separately leave valuables (wallets, phones, car keys etc) which was an excellent idea. To be admired was the group of Finnish runners having a beer before the race!
There were five start groups separated by 10 minutes each. The first two were determined by estimated finish time while the remaining three were randomly allocated. Phil was in the first group while I was in the fourth group. Runners were called forward via a well organised PA system and formed up outside the stadium before being called in. There was none of this being there 2 hours before time and corralled, you were called forward in time but treated as adults, and there were toilets available in both the changing area and the form-up areas. After a trot round half the track to the start, each group was set off by a volley of gunfire from a group of period-costumed soldiers. We then ran round the other half of the track past Elly and Nicola and out the main gate where the fun started! There was a big screen in the stadium where supporters could watch the race while waiting for runners to return.
The run was challenging; the blurb had started off a few months ago saying it was undulating and had slowly changed to hilly with sharp inclines by the time the race started. They weren’t wrong; it was constantly undulating with indeed some sharp ups and downs. The hills weren’t long but it felt as if there were no flat bits, my Garmin said there was about 1,600ft of climbing over the distance. Both of said it was the most challenging road marathon we’d done. The route itself was though the Stockholm suburbs either on roads or adjoining cycleways, some wooded areas as well. While the scenery probably couldn’t compete with the normal Stockholm city centre marathon, the support more than made up for it. There were water stations every 2 to 3 km manned by volunteers in period costume. There was also period bands and choirs (seriously!) and lots of supporters with a good number in costume, all very friendly and supportive. There was water and energy drinks at each station, with fruit (orange and banana segments) particularly in the return leg. After having had an orange segment at a stop I reached for one at a following station, took a bite to discover it was a very sour lemon, reached for a drink to get rid of the taste and got coffee and managed to pour the hot liquid down my front, certainly perked me up! As the route followed the original course, it was an out-and-back so you could see the fast runners coming back the way, very impressive it was to. I managed to somehow miss Phil although I was looking out for him.
I had a good race, as I was in the 4th group, I passed a lot of runners on the road and had no problems until a sharp downhill at mile 20 where I felt a niggle from a groin strain picked up at the 7 Hills. Took a couple of tabs and that got me through although I was getting very tired by now particularly with the undulating terrain. When you came back into the stadium you could turn right to finish the 1912 marathon distance (40k) or turn left, leave the stadium by a side entrance and do an extra (hilly!) 2k before returning to finish the current full marathon distance (42.2km). We both did the extra loop although it was very tempting to go for the quicker finish but Elly, Nicola and Phil (who’d long finished) had placed themselves where I had no option even if I’d wanted to! Once you crossed the line you got your excellent medal and a glass of champagne before returning to the sports centre to pick up your finishers t-shirt and goody bag which was mostly fruit, nuts, sweets, coke drink and water, and your baggage. After changing, I returned to meet the other in the stadium and watch the remaining runners coming in. There were a lot of runners in costume, some superb ones, and there was a completion with prizes for the 50 best dressed runners. You could run in a similar cotton vest to those used in 1912 which had your country’s flag on the chest. These could be pre-ordered (as Phil did) or bought at the expo. By the time I went, there were only small GB one’s left so I chose to run in a Swedish vest to fit in with the spirit of the day. In all 7,905 runners started and 7,674 of them finished. Times were:
40k marathon time: 3:50:56 . Position: 2,217 of 7,674
42.2km marathon time: 4:04:44. Position: 1535 of 4,217
Phil had a simply stunning race finishing with a high placing and an excellent time given the terrain:
40k marathon time: 3:06:06. Position: 210 of 7,674
42.2km marathon time: 3:17:07. Position: 144 of 4,217
After the race, we got the Metro back to the prison area but stopped off for a bit to eat. Being Saturday evening most places were very busy but we found a small cafe where we ended up getting very large pizzas with Phil having an enormous calzone – biggest I’ve ever seen by far!
This was a great event. The tie in and theme of the 1912 Olympic marathon centenary was a brilliant idea. The event was well organised, extremely friendly and very accessible to runners and supporters alike. However, the best thing was the Swedes themselves, who were brilliant hosts and very supportive particularly on route. Stockholm is a beautiful city and also well worth a visit in its own right. Really glad I did this!
The 1912 Marathon: (details from the Jubilee website at www.jubileemarathon.se)
Sunday the 14th July was the big day during the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. Just as at the games in London 1908 and Athens 1906, it was the marathon which captured the public’s interest. For the organisers who prepared for this race for over two years, the weather was the worst imaginable, blue sky, sun and more than 30 degrees in the shade.
Every conceivable measure was taken so that the race in Stockholm would be run in a dignified way. The scenes from the London Olympics must not be repeated under any circumstance. At registration for the marathon, all runners had to present a medical certificate. In addition all participants were examined by a doctor before the start. During the race eight doctors were positioned at various points along the course. Three doctors were at the finish. Runners had the opportunity to drink both at the official water station and between the stations. According to the official report from the Olympics “in full view, every 500m along the course, there was the possibility for runners to take refreshments such as water, tea, coffee, oranges or lemons.
18,713 paying spectators were in the stands. The rest of the space was occupied by participants and officials (2,000 places), the press (500 places) as well as honorary guests. This was the only competition day during the Olympic Games where the Stadium was completely full.
Spectators who did not manage to get a ticket for the Stadium were out on the course. Extra trains for spectators were added to stations along the course. According to the official reports from the Olympics the course was lined with tens of thousands of spectators.
Everything was carefully prepared before the most important event of the Vth Olympic Games. Before the start the marathon course was cleared of any large stones. Large parts of the course were watered so that not so much dust would be created. Signs were set up every five kilometres to show the distances. 100 police, 300 military personnel together with a few hundred officials and scouts were employed to assist during the race.
98 runners from 19 nations were entered in the marathon. 69 came to the start, 12 of whom were Swedes. Each nation was allowed a maximum of 12 participants in an event at the 1912 Olympics. The morning of the competition, the Swedish runners ate cutlets and eggs – this was before carbo-loading had caught on. The marathon was to start at 13:45 but was a little delayed. At 12 minutes to two the runners were underway, almost all in white hats or handkerchiefs to protect their heads from the sun.
Kennedy Kane McArthur settled the race in the last kilometre. On Valhallavägen outside the Stadium he looked nervously back several times before he was reassured by the crowd that he had a clear lead. McArthur dropped his pace in the last stretch before the Stadium to save energy for the finish inside the arena. A trumpet signalled that the winner was on his way into the stadium. McArthur’s entrance met with great cheers. He reached the finish after 2:36.48.8. McArthur threw himself to the ground after he crossed the finish line and was taken care of by a doctor. Afterwards he explained that he was not exhausted at all but only lay down on the grass to rest in accordance with the instructions of the South African officials.
The Swede Sigge Jacobsson was the best European with sixth place and a time of 2:43.24.9. Despite dropping two places in the last 5km, Sigge still had the strength for a final surge. The position was a disappointment but he gained recognition for the honourable way he finished the race, appearing to still have strength to fight
Even if many of the finishers were certainly very tired after running 40 kilometres on the hilly course in stifling heat, all those who reached the finish line seemed in reasonable shape. 35 of the 69 who started, completed the race.
After the race, there was criticism that an importer of French Champagne was given permission to set up a table at the finish where the runners were offered Champagne. This had – according to the critics – led to several runners leaving the arena on unsteady legs. The three doctors at the finish had a reasonably quiet day, but medical personnel along the course had to work hard to take care of all those who had problems with the heat.
The worst affected was the 23 year old Portuguese, Francisco Lázaro. He lay in the middle of the field at the Silverdal refreshment station after 30km. He then fell in the steep downward slope at Överjärva Gård but got up and continued to stagger before he collapsed and lay unconscious on the course, about eight kilometres from the finish.
A message was sent to the station at Silverdal and the doctor on duty there was quickly on the scene. Later more doctors arrived but despite the treatment Lázaro did not regain consciousness. He was sent to Serafimer hospital where he arrived about one and a half hours after the collapse. Lázaro’s body temperature was 42.1 degrees. The Portuguese died at six o’clock the following morning thus becoming the first fatality in an Olympic Games.
Lázaro was one of the extremely few participants in the marathon who had no headwear as protection from the sun. Later it emerged that Lázaro covered large parts of his body with fat to protect himself from the sun. This prevented sweating and led to the increased body temperature. After the close of the Olympic Games a musical event was held in the Stadium where 14,000 Kronor was collection for Lázaro’s family.
On a happier note, Shizo Kanaguri was one of the 34 runners who dropped out in 1912. He did not officially withdraw and, embarrassed, he left for Japan without contacting the organisation. In 1967 the now 76 year old Shizo was invited to Stockholm to symbolically finish his suspended marathon race. His time was 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds.