09 March 2012

Stockholm Marathon - A Somewhat Hasty Decision

Well, the decision has been made! Just moments ago, I signed up to run the 2012 Asics Stockholm Marathon! During a moment of caffeinated enthusiasm (mixed with a smidge of procrastination) at Sola Cafe, I committed to traversing 42.195 Swedish kilometers as swiftly and smoothly as possible on the first Saturday of June.

Although I've been searching for a spring marathon for quite some time, I was not sure that Stockholm was even a possibility until yesterday afternoon. Having missed the December registration deadline, I added my name to the waiting list in early January. Cautiously hopeful that a spot might open, I also acknowledged the strong probability that I would not be racing in Sweden this year. A luck would have it, my name was placed nar the top of the waiting list. After receiving an email offering late registration via waiting list, I raced (digitally) to ensure I could coordinate travel plans, create an affordable budget, and adequately train for the 2 June race. With only a few days provided to accept the offer, I was eager to jump at the opportunity, but was a bit worried about establishing a sufficiently preparatory three month training timeline (hanning struggled with post-Chile illness and some Achilles tenderness/tendinitis my late winter/early spring training has been quite sporadic). All my concerns aside, I could not find a reason to bypass an opportunity to race in Stockholm. Thus, with just an hour remaining until the expiration of my registration offer, I pulled out my credit card and clicked on the registration hyperlink. Unfortunately, a defunct link dampened my enthusiasm. Since this problem occurred during the wee hours of the Swedish morning, there was no chance for a quick fix before the deadline. hoping for some leniency, I promptly emailed the race organizers in Stockholm explaining the problem and seeking late registration for the event. Thankfully, the race officials were incredibly understanding and more than happy accommodate my URL issues. Immediately upon receiving their positive response, I paused my academic endeavors and attended to the more pressing marathon registration.

Why Stockholm? Well, I happen to be fortunate enough to hold a fellowship with Dr. Karen DePauw, Dean and Vice President for Graduate Education at Virginia Tech, which provides me to travel to Europe in May. Since I'll already be in Europe, why not schedule a race at the end of the program (hopefully, I'm not too exhausted from the whirlwind itinerary)? One component of my fellowship involves duties as assistant facilitator for the Global Perspectives Program. As such, I will find myself leading a group of graduate students through a tour of universities in Switzerland, France, and, Italy during May. Aimed at fostering a global perspective on higher education, this study abroad experience develops a comparative understanding of how culture and context influences the establishment and evolution of higher education systems. By the conclusion of the trip, I hope that each participant will have a more complete (and comparative) understanding of US and European university systems, meet new international colleagues, establish research collaborations and cultural exchanges, and appreciate the people, culture, cuisine, and geography of Switzerland, France, and Italy.

According to the rather robust marathon website:

It is basically a two-lap course through the central parts of Stockholm. The surroundings vary from the woods of the Royal park "Djurgården" to the streets of a big city. The course passes buildings such as the Royal Palace, the City Hall, the Royal Opera and the Houses of Parliament. The course is one of the most scenic in the world. Much of the race is run along beautiful waterways.When passing the "Västerbron" bridge, the runners will enjoy a fantastic view over a city with buildings ranging in age from the medieval times to the present day. The difference in altitude between the highest and the lowest point of the course is 29 meters.Start just outside the Olympic Stadium and finish inside the beautiful arena. The first lap is 16.6 kilometres, the second lap 25.6 kilometres.

The elevation profile reveals an undulating course through historical, urban, and natural areas of stokckholm. The periodic peaks represent the many brief, yet steep, bridges that connect the various islands that compromise the Stockholm metropolitan area. Although not as consistently flat as the Chicago course, I still hope that Stockholm will enable a swift marrathoning time. At the very least, the newness (and what I expect to be general fabulousness) of the cityscape should make for an amazing running experience.

So, if you happened to be in (or near) Stocholm in early June, please try to save some energy for early afternoon (the race begins at 12:00pm, so you can enjoy a leisurely morning and still have time for fika in the afternoon) cheering along what is certain to be an architecturally, historically, and all-around outstanding marathon corse.