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 – ValhallavägenThe 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 – OxenstiernsgatanAccording 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 – StrandvägenOxenstiernsgatan 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 – NorrmalmstorgThe 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 – SkeppsbronKungsträdgården, 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 – HornsgatanIt's completely flat up to Slussen ("the Lock") where the new part of the course begins. This is because the infamous traffic hub is, at last, being rebuilt.
The original lock was built by the Dutch in the 17th century. Later versions were designed by Sweden's leading engineers, Christoffer Polhem, in the 18th century and Nils Ericsson a hundred years after that. There have always been plenty of taverns around Slussen.
The crowds will be deep here and you will need their support since one of the steepest inclines on the course leads up to Hornsgatan.
7. Hornsgatan - RingvägenSödermälarstrand has been replaced by Hornsgatan, one of Södermalm's most populated streets. We are now in the middle of "Bajenland", the home of Hammerby sports club, and also on the stretch of another famous Stockholm race, the Midnight race.
You will be grateful that Hornsgatan was levelled just over a hundred years ago to prepare the way for electric trams. Otherwise you would have had to struggle over Hornsgatspuckeln, the raised street to the right with its pottery and picture shops. Further along to the right is Gamla Bysis, where people used to wait imprisoned until someone to paid their debts.
8. Ringvägen - HögalidsgatanWhen we leave Zinkensdamm behind and continue left into Lundagatan, there's a new incline to one of the highest points on the course before a real downhill stretch takes us towards Högalid Park.
Högalid church was designed by Ivar Tengbom who later worked on the city's Concert Hall. The 84 metre twin towers can be seen from all over Stockholm - a good landmark for those who easily get lost.
9. Högalidsgatan – Västerbron (bridge)The most feared part of the course. Both the stretches up from Söder and down to Kungsholmen can put a spanner in the works. Don't push it too much on the way up since it will take up too much energy. Take it easy going downhill so you don't brake and tighten up your thighs.
Västerbron offers one of Stockholm's most beautiful views. To the right is Riddarfjärden with the silhouette of the City Hall and Riddarholm, which dates back to the city's first glory days. To the left, beyond green Långholmen, is the unromantic Essinge highway crossing Lake Mälaran. On the water you'll see boats of every shape and form.
10. Västerbron – RålambshovsparkenNext 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 MälarstrandYou 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 StationYou’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 – TorsgatanPast the Central Station and up onto Torsgatan, an almost one mile long slope. You are now in Astrid Lindgren’s neighbourhood, the creator of Pippi Longstocking.
14. Torsgatan – the Vasa ParkTorsgatan 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.
15. OdengatanAn 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 City Library, Gunnar Asplund’s clear illustration of the transition to modernism.
16. Odengatan – HumlegårdenHumlegården ("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. KarlavägenAs we pass Humlegården, the course no longer turns right on to Sturegatan and towards the Stadium. Instead we continue on the former highway which has been called, amongst other things, Green Road. It was transformed into a stately avenue when Albert Lindhagen re-designed Stockholm in 1866.
Take time to marvel at the 1920s sculptures along the way.
The austere Fältöversten, north of Karlaplan, was built in the early 70s on the working class area known as "Gropen". Karlaplan, a city park where five roads meet, was inspired by Place d'Étoile in Paris.
19. Garnisonen – DiplomatstadenThe almost 2500 metre long Karlavägen finishes with a right turn on to Oxenstiernsgatan. For a short time we are on the same stretch as kilometre 3 on the first lap. But at Berwald concert hall we turn left, past the American Embassy and up towards the Diplomatic district.
This is where the Stockholm Exhibition took place in 1930 which led to the breakthrough of functionalism, a concept so hated by the then mayor, Carl Lindhagen, that he suggested it be banned.
20. Dag Hammarskölds väg – DjurgårdsbrunnsvägenDag 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 vägBe prepared to run into some wind as you cross 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 – LindarängsvägenWe 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.
23. LindarängsvägenIt’s now time to focus on your running economy, even more so 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 ahead.
24. Kaknäsvägen – ManillavägenOn 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 – DjurgårdsbrunnsvägenYou 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 are running the second lap, and right out to the royal palaces of Haga and Ulriksdal.
26. DjurgårdsvägenWatch 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. Djurgårdsvägen – StrandvägenThere 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 StadiumThe last kilometre is tough to begin with as you run up Sturegatan, but the finish inside the packed Stockholm Olympic Stadium is glorious.
The stadium was built for the 1912 Olympic Games. It proudly holds the world record for world records - no other arena has hosted more track & field world records - 83 to this day. It is still used for many purposes, including the annual international athletics meeting, BAUHAUS-galan.
The finish makes the whole journey worthwhile, the 42 kilometres you have covered on race day, as well as the training miles your legs have put in on the way to Stockholm Marathon. We'll do it all again next year, won't we ?