May 4th, 2019
50 km, 446 m gain
First race of the season! And what a great one to start out with. We stumbled across Aros Marathon online somehow, and immediately decided on doing it. It seemed the perfect, low-key start to the season, and we told ourselves from the beginning that we would simply treat it as a great opportunity to get a good long run in, and also challenge ourselves to stick to a 5 min/km pace start to finish. Setting our minds on keeping a set pace and not caring too much about those around us felt quite good – especially when you come out of the winter season, not all that used to race nerves and whatnot. For someone like me, Sophia, who gets really nervous before races, it was great.
As the out-of-towners as we were at this local (and free of charge) race, we drove into Enköping early Saturday morning and parked by the bus station. Then we hopped on the express bus to Uppsala, and walked up to the starting area by the Uppsala Castle from the station downtown (approx. 10 min). We arrived with a good amount of time to spare, but ran into trouble when we realized there were no bathrooms around the starting area. Most participants were men, who could easily pop in behind a tree, but for us ladies, it was a little more problematic. So a heads up: if you need to go, do it down by the train/bus station before you head up the hill! We picked up our bibs, warmed up and got ready as the sun started to peek out a little bit. It was otherwise a quite chilly May morning, with temperatures hovering only a few degrees above freezing. We therefore went for pants and long sleeves, which worked well all the 50k to Enköping. Right before 10am, there was a short race briefing and then… well, then off we went!
All the participants are encouraged to go together for the first part – however split up into smaller groups depending on preferred pace – since there are no course markers along the 2k stretch from the castle to the railroad track bed (which the rest of the race would follow), but we ended up in a sort of a “no man’s land” after the leaders took off really fast but the group behind was a bit back. A wrong turn or two later and we were safely on track though, and there were no directional mishaps after that. We tapped into a comfortable 4:45 min/k pace right from the start, and kept clocking the same times for most of the race. A large group of people ended up keeping around the same pace for the first 10k or so, but after that and all the way in, we were more or less by ourselves. The landscape was mostly flat, with pretty farmland and pristine birch forest taking turns lining the course, and the terrain non-technical for the most part. Some sections saw a sandier type of ground, which of course got a little tiring, but other than that, it’s all easy and highly runnable. We started out with two 350 ml of sports beverage each (Tailwind for Sophia and Umara for Mike), and only stopped at the halfway mark at 25k in Örsundsbro to refill. We had another set of two bottles packed, with just the powder in them, and simply filled them up with water and gave them a shake before continuing. It was the first time we tried doing that, so we weren’t entirely smooth and lost a minute or so. Good thing we typically have my mom and stepdad handing us our stuff! We also managed to take off literally 1 min after the people running the 25k race started their journey (Örsundsbro-Enköping), so we ran into some crowds when starting up again. After a few hundred metres of pavement, you tackle some looser terrain, with dirt, rocks and uneven ground, so we really had to keep an eye on where we placed our feet as we were trying to pass others as smoothly as possible. I then hit a slump around 35k, where I all of a sudden just got quite tired and shortly after pretty nauseous. Mike stayed strong the rest of the race, but I definitely had to put my head down to keep the pace up. The course got a bit more challenging in the last few kilometers, when the trail suddenly and quite out of the blue takes you on a loop in and out of a sandpit a few times. After roughly 49k of more or less flat and somewhat fast running, our legs did not like this surprise! It was like running right into a wall when we got to the (two) steep uphills, but managed to pull ourselves up and then all the way into the main square in Enköping and the finish line. The distance ended up being almost 51k, and we clocked in at 4 h 10 min, 9th male and 1st female. I didn’t feel all that well right at the finish because of my nausea, but we couldn’t have been happier with the time and performance over all. At the finish line, there were sandwiches, candy, potato chips, coffee etc. for all the runners to dig into, as well as a happy, bustling atmosphere including plenty of spectators. We put on warm clothes, Mike ate his bodyweight in cheese sandwiches and I nibbled on some chips, before we slowly walked back to the car.
Aros Marathon showed us how much fun it can be to run a small, humble, local race – and I wouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves back there again next year. There are so many expensive spectacles out there that we need plenty of Aros-type events to counteract them with. Events where the joy of running is the most important part, to put it simply. It was also fun to see strong runners toeing the line, with some sub 2 h 30 min marathoners taking off at lightning speed and leaving the rest of us in the dust – inspiring for sure! The course is beautiful and quintessentially Uppland-esque – sprawling farm land dotted with picturesque red-painted farms and cottages as well as patches of woods – easy for the most part and aid stations are frequent. Also, we love running A-to-B races in general, and this was no exception. Huge thanks to all the volunteers making Aros Marathon happen – we’ll make sure to spread the word!