The course kilometre by kilometre
The ASICS Stockholm Marathon comprises two scenic laps around the medieval City situated on fourteen islands, on the banks of the archipelago of 24,000 islands, many of them easily reached by steamboat - you are never far from water.
1. Lidingövägen – Valhallavägen
The start is situated right outside the red-brick1912 Olympic Stadium on broad Lidingövägen. Do not head in the wrong direction, or you’ll end up on one of the many Stockholm islands, Lidingö, home of the world’s largest cross country race, Lidingöloppet.
The first turn takes you onto Valhallavägen. There’s the opportunity here to run on both sides of the road. The first turn to the left side is a shorter run but that gain will be lost further on when the course turns to the right.
2. Valhallavägen – Oxenstiernsgatan
According to Nordic mythology Valhalla was Odin's hall for slain heroes who were escorted by Valkyries. This martial paradise was one of the most beautiful halls of Asgård, the kingdom of Gods, located in the middle of the world. The dead heroes fought during the day and rejoined as brothers to party all night. You’ve still got 25 miles left, so it’s too early to look for Valkyries!
3. Oxenstiernsgatan – Strandvägen
Oxenstiernsgatan represents the first hilly stretch. At the top of the slope waits a long descent. Be cautious, there’s a long way to go!
4. Strandvägen – Norrmalmstorg
The noble Strandvägen gives you the first glimpse of the waters, which flow to the archipelago of 24,000 islands. Next is Norrmalmstorg, the square where a bank robbery in 1973 gave name to the psychological state known as Stockholm syndrome. That is based on the behaviour of the victims, who continued to defend their captors even after their six days physical detention was over.
5. Norrmalmstorg – Skeppsbron
Kungsträdgården, the kitchen garden of the court during the Middle Ages, is a very popular meeting place, so you’ll get big support from the crowds.
There’s actually a risk that you’ll speed up too much, as you’ll be further assisted by the downhill slope. Save some energy as you must put on a good show when you present yourself at the King’s workplace, the baroque Royal Palace. It is the only functioning royal palace, which is open to the public all year round. Unfortunately, His Majesty won’t be there to cheer you on, as the Royal Family moved to the Drottningholm Palace, outside Stockholm, many years ago. You’ll have to spend your time in the medieval Old Town by yourself... and the company of roughly 20,000 other Marathoners.
6. Skeppsbron – Söder Mälarstrand
Look up and you’ll see Katarinahissen. The popular lift offers a spectacular view of Stockholm from its platform. You’ll pass through Slussen (“the Lock”), the meeting point of the Baltic Sea and Lake Mälaren. The complex tangle of roads and railways is run-down. Its future is the object of a never-ending debate.
7-8. Söder Mälarstrand
A couple of miles on Södermalm, once the island of the working classes, now a trendy district for young people who have moved to Stockholm from less glamorous parts of Sweden. This stretch is completely flat but there’s a risk it could be windy...
9. Söder Mälarstrand – Västerbron
… and it ends at the bottom of Västerbron, Sweden’s largest arched bridge. Here you will find the toughest ascent of the race, so take it easy! Keep in mind that you’ll have to tackle the bridge on the second lap as well. Take your time to scan the wonderful view of the waters of Stockholm.
10. Västerbron – Rålambshovsparken
The downslope is almost as difficult! You’ll come to Rålambshovsparken, an overcrowded area on sunny spring days when Stockholmers, who endured the depressing dark months, rush out of their winter nests. Many of them dare to swim in the freezing water, which is actually so clean that you can drink it!
11. Norr Mälarstrand
You are now running on Kungsholmen (The King’s Island), inhabited in the 14th century by monks who were evicted the following century when the Swedes converted to Protestantism. Kungsholmen became heavily industrialised and the poorest area of the growing city was dubbed Svältholmen (Famine Island). The situation changed drastically during the 1920s with the rise of large apartment buildings.
The poor moved to the outskirts of the city. Apartments facing the water are really sought-after, costing several million kronor.
12. City Hall – Central Station
You’re approaching the City Hall, Ragnar Östberg’s national romantic masterpiece with the ancient symbol of Sweden, three gold crowns, at the top. The prestigious Nobel Prize gala is held in The Blue Hall and the ball in the Golden Hall. The course continues straight on to Norrmalm, the heart of the city, and the central railway station.
13. Central Station – Torsgatan
Past the Central Station and up onto Torsgatan which has replaced the difficult Fleminggatan, an almost one mile long slope. You are now in Astrid Lindgren’s neighbourhood, the creator of Pippi Longstocking.
14. Torsgatan – the Vasa Park
Torsgatan ends at Vasaparken. This was the training facility during the 1912 Olympics, and converted to a potato field throughout the course of the First World War. A right turn leads us to Odengatan.
An easy kilometre, as large crowds are waiting for you at Odenplan. A few hundred metres further down the descent is one of Sweden’s most internationally famous buildings: the Public Library, Gunnar Asplund’s clear illustration of the transition to modernism.
16. Odengatan – Humlegården
Humlegården ("the hops garden"), on your right side, was established during the reign of Gustavus Adolphus to grow brewers’ hops. Later, it evolved into a kind of amusement park, with carousels and dance pavilions.
17-18. Karlavägen – Valhallavägen
There is a little park on the left of Sturegatan. In 1710 it was the site of common graves for the victims of the plague, while you are plagued by the hill to be conquered on your way back at the Olympic Stadium, but there’s still one more lap to run!
19. Valhallavägen – Diplomatstaden
This time we turn left at the end of Oxenstiernsgatan into the exclusive diplomatic district. On your right the Nobel Park, waiting a century for the Nobel Palace that was meant to be venue of the Nobel Prize (see 12!). The park harbours almost every tree to be found in Sweden.
20. Dag Hammarskölds väg – Djurgårdsbrunnsvägen
Dag Hammarskjöld served as the Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1953 to his death in a plane crash in 1961.He was on his way to negotiate a cease-fire between the opposing parties in the Congolese war. He received the Nobel Peace Prize, posthumously, later that year.
On your left stands the former embassy of West Germany, which was occupied by a terrorist group in 1975. Two of the hostages were killed as their demands were refused by the German government and more people died when the explosive installed by the terrorists blew up.
21. Djurgårdsbrunnsvägen – Greve von Essens väg
Be prepared to face some wind as you run across the open space of Gärdet, once the drill-ground of King Charles XIV John, the French marshal who became the King of Sweden in 1818 - the first of the Bernadottes, who still reign. The district of Gärdet was built in the 30s, an architecturally transitional period. It incorporates Functionalist and English Garden City planning ideas.
22. Greve von Essens väg – Lindarängsvägen
We leave Gärdet behind us with a right turn into Lindarängsvägen and the second half of the race. Visualise the last Saturday of August when almost 30,000 women of all ages assemble on the field on the day of Tjejmilen, one of the largest women-only races in the world.
As we enter the second half of the race it’s time to focus on your running economy, even more since this is a section with few supporters on the side of the road. Don’t waste any energy on tense muscles, relax your shoulders, keep your head up with your sight straight on.
24. Kaknäsvägen – Manillavägen
On your right side is the approximately 500-feet-high Kaknäs Tower with its radio antenna, one of the tallest buildings in Northern Europe. There is no entry fee if you reserve a table on the 28th floor restaurant. Wouldn’t that be a lovely way to get a preview of the marathon course?
25. Manillavägen – Djurgårdsbrunnsvägen
You have crossed the Djurgårdsbrunn Canal that was dug up in 1834. It had been filled in to prevent sailors avoiding passing through the tollgates. South Djurgården became an island again. The canal hosted the rowing competitions of the 1912 Olympics.
The course stretches out through the Ecological Park, the world's first urban national park, consisting of a continuous stretch of greenery extending from the Fjäderholmarna islands to Djurgården, where you’ll run on the second lap, right out to the royal castles of Haga and Ulriksdal.
Watch out, this is a tricky segment of the marathon, rolling on the green island of Djurgården which means “the Animal Garden” and once it really was. A fence surrounded the island where the royals hunted deer. Lions and bears were used in animal fights in the 17th century. The fence was taken away and Stockholmers began to make day trips to the green fields of Djurgården, escaping the filthy streets of the city.
27-28. Djurgårdsvägen – Strandvägen
There are several museums on Djurgården that are worth a visit before or after the race. The art galleries, Liljevalchs and Prins Eugene’s Waldemarsudde, the world’s first open-air museum, Skansen and the biggest attraction of them all, the Vasa museum which you pass after two thirds of the marathon race. When the Vasa set sail in 1628, she was probably the world's most powerful warship. With 64 cannons and 300 men, she was sure to put the fear of God in the enemy, but she sank on her maiden voyage. The Vasa was raised in 1961 and the wreck has been restored as a fully rigged ship.
42.2 Sturegatan – the Olympic Stadion
The ASICS Stockholm Marathon has a glorious finish, inside the Stadium of the 1912 Olympic Games, packed with supporters. It is still used for many purposes, as the popular home ground of the soccer team Djurgården (yes, you’ve run on their island!), the home of the international athletics meeting, DN Galan, and the venue of live acts such as the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and U2.
The Stadium proudly owns the world record of world records - no other arena has hosted more track & field world records - 81 to this day! Will you break your own record as you finish on the same track as numerous Olympic Champions?