Runners don't just head south when the idea of a trip to foreign parts takes hold. A couple of early autumn races in beautiful Stockholm might be the temptation that you can't quite resist ...
When British runners think about an overseas event, they often paint a picture of somewhere relaxed and sunny where they can combine a race with a few days or a week in a warm climate. Half marathons in destinations like Paris and the Spanish resorts attract big fields of British runners enjoying a dual purpose break. But what if you've seen that, done it ...
A trip with a difference that still lets you build in a great event is Stockholm, the beautiful capital of Sweden. There are a couple of terrific races to consider. Firstly, one for the girls - the Tjejmilen (Sunday, Sepember 5). This is a women-only 10k which is well-established and now attracts around 25,000 runners. The course is close to the city centre running through the Djurgården, a picture postcard royal park. Think running along a canal or an avenue of majestic oaks and past some of Stockholm's most iconic buildings. It's kinda cool too with lots of music along the way - expect to be pumped up by rock bands, brass bands, samba orchestras and DJs who will make sure your morale won't flag in the later stages.
Scandinavian women may share the laid back demeanor of their male counterpart but with 20,000 plus of them in one place, they still generate an incredible amount of excitement - you'll be bowled over by the brilliant atmosphere! The early September race date will provide ideal running conditions and a staggered start means that you can happily jog along with runners of similar ability. And don't forget to collect your slice of cheesecake at the finish along with the medal! All in all an event worth considering.
If you're ineligible to run in the Tjejmilen or you can't bare to leave your fella behind then hold off your trip until the following week and sign up for the Stockholm Half. 2010 sees the 10th running of the event which starts on the Strömbron, the bridge between the Royal Castle and the city park Kungsträdgården, before passing the City Hall, the House of Nobility, the Royal Palace, the Swedish Parliament and the Royal Opera House. As well as a scenic route, the course is flat just 18m between the highest and lowest points so the ideal event to lower your PB or to run a first race.
A couple of great races then so any other reasons to make the trip? Absolutely - Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe with a dramatic setting - it's built on 14 islands where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea. A boat sightseeing trip is a must and that's the best way to get a feel for the city's unique situation. Other 'must do' visits are Gamla Stan, one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centres in Europe. The narrow winding cobblestone streets, with their buildings in so many different shades of gold, give the district its unique character.
One for the boys is the Vasa Museum, a restored 17th century sailing ship - it's the most visited museum in Scandinavia, with over one million visitors a year. There are 9 different exhibitions around the ship to tell about life on board the Vasa.
For the hardcore among you the Stockholm Marathon takes place in June and like the shorter September races the route is a scenic one with the added bonus of memorable views over the city when crossing the Västerbron bridge and a finish at the Olympic Stadium, the scene of the 1912 Games and the setting for 83 official records; it that doesn't inspire you to a PB, nothing will!
If you fancy a Swedish destination other than Stockholm then it has to be Gothenburg and its May half marathon - 40,000 runners and 200,000 spectators who put aside their Nordic reserve for the day and offer fantastic support. Again running through parks and across bridges with great views of the city and its harbour.
Sports Tours International organise parties to the three Stockholm events based at the Scandia Anglais Hotel; for details go to the Sports Tours International website or call the team on 0161 703 8161. For more details of the Gothenburg Half visit the race website.