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4 January, 2016

The Swedish enthusiasm for races

Swedish races

The beginning of the year, to me, equals with optimisim: Longer days, a fresh start, a pretty-much empty diary waiting to be filled with exciting opportunities and of course the new years resolution. I’m definitely not alone in promising myself to eat more healthily, drink less alcohol and do more exercise, but how do you keep up the motivation?

After the first few weeks, when the novelty of the new training clothes/exercise classes/fitness equipment has worn off, its really hard to stick to the promises. Even the thought of looking good on the beach in the summer isn’t enough to get me moving. I need a challenge. So I sign up for a race. Or several races. In more than one discipline. And then panic that I wont be able to finish, which gets me off the sofa and moving!

There is no shortage of amateur races in Sweden, from the fundraising 5km walk/run for charity to the super-tough ironman competition there is something to fit all levels, ages (look out for the Barn events for children) and interests.

Of course some races attract more attention than the others. I present to you, the Classics/En Svensk Klassiker. Do you fancy 90km of cross country skiing (Vasalopet) in March? Or perhaps 300km of road cycling (Vätternrundan) in June? Or maybe a 3km open water swim (Vansbrosimmet) in August is more your style? Or a 30km September cross-country run (Lidingöloppet)? These races are so popular that some years the start places sell out within minutes. That’s right, there are literally thousands of people who want to do these races.

Do these races seem like madness?

In case these distances sound too scary, there are half (halvklassiker) versions of all of these races and the womens race (1/3 of each distance, Tjejklassiker).

All these races are growing in popularity, to the extent that some joke that completing all 4 makes you so Swedish you should get citizenship alongside the medal ☺.

So be warned, after the Christmas and New Year holidays, there is likely to be a significant increase in the frequency of lunch discussions revolving around training, finishing time ambitions and weather predictions!

The classics are truly something that Sweden can be proud of. The organisation is incredibly efficient, people come from abroad just to participate, the atmosphere is amazingly welcoming and friendly and there are a huge number of spectators and volunteers,  even in awful weather!

Happy new year and good luck with the challenges you set for yourself!

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