THE NEW COURSE
The new adidas Stockholm Marathon course – kilometre by kilometre
1. Lidingövägen – Valhallavägen/Odengatan
With adrenaline pumping we set off on the broad Lidingövägen, just by Östermalms sports ground. We pass Stockholm Olympic Stadium, where the finish line beckons after just under 42 kilometres. Make sure you don’t turn left out of habit and follow the old course, instead turn right on to Valhallavägen. The first kilometre sign is exactly as you reach Odengatan.
Note: Lidingövägen was once called Ropstensvägen, since it ran from Ropsten’s ferry (to Lidingö) to the tollgates where Karlaplan is situation today.
2. Odengatan – Sveavägen
A nice downhill stretch down Odengaten leads us to the junction with Sveavägen, a long stretch of which is included for the first time in Stockholm Marathon’s history and takes us towards the heart of the city.
Note: Take a deep breath of inspiration at Gunnar Asplund’s Public Library on your right. It’s a world renowned building which marked the end of the classical era. The cylindrical top on the rectangular base reminds us of a child’s building blocks.
3. Sveavägen – Kungsgatan/Hötorget
Past the Grand cinema, which Sweden’s prime minister, Olof Palme, visited the evening he was murdered in 1986, and Adolf Fredrik’s cemetery, where he is buried, then turn right on to Kungsgatan at the Concert Hall.
Note: Until 150 years ago, Hötorget was divided into Månglartorget, where meat, fish, vegetables and flowers were sold, and Bondetorget with its seasonal produce. At the Porter Café, a glass of porter cost 5 öre and a litre bottle of pickadong (red wine) 75 öre.
4. Kungsgatan – Torsgatan
We gather speed as we head downhill and wind our way along Vasagatan and Norra Bantorget till we come up to Torsgatan, the first uphill part of the course.
Note: Horse-drawn trams went from Norra Bantorget over to Torsgatan, which in 1910 was the first road to be paved with asphalt, an early preparation for future marathons.
5. Torsgatan – St Eriksgatan
In the opposite direction to the original marathon course, we enter Kungsholmen with the old 16 storey Sports Palace on the left. In 1978 a cinema here was transformed into Polar studios, where ABBA, Led Zeppelin and the Ramones all recorded albums.
Note: At the top of the palace, Bruno Liljefors had a three storey studio where the windows were wide open. The painter fed birds with meat and fish.
6. St Eriksgatan – Scheelegatan
We continue in the opposite direction to the old marathon course and enjoy the journey down Fleminggatan, which ends with a right turn into Scheelegaten and Rådhuset court house. This is a very easy stretch, and it’s going to get even better!
Note: The battle at the beginning of the 20th century for who should build Rådhuset was between Carl Westman and Ragnar Östberg. The latter lost but instead got the commission for City Hall, which became Kungsholmen’s and the whole of Stockholm’s most famous silhouette – built on the grounds of the old Eldkvarn, where Rådhuset should originally have stood. Ragnar Östberg’s proposal for Rådhus, Mälardrott, which was to have been built where the City Hall now stands.
7. Scheelegatan – Norr Mälarstrand
Along Kungsholmstorg we’re running downhill again reaching Riddarfjärden’s Norr Mälarstrand waterfront and the sight of the City Hall’s three crowns.
Note: In old times, there was an invisible border between the part of Norr Mälarstrand we are running along and the part west of Kungsholmstorg. For example, people who lived here skated on Riddarfjärden while the country bumpkins would stick to Kronoberg Park.
8. Norr Mälarstrand – Vasabron
We are leaving Kungsholmen for Norrmalm, over Stadshusbron to Tegelbacken, the traffic system mentioned in songs by both Olle Adolphson and Kent. Tegelbacken is one of the few sections which breaks your rhythm in an otherwise record quick first 10km.
Note: At the far end of Norr Mälarstrand, stands Ragnar Östberg’s jewel, City Hall. It was built with tender care. The bricks are copies of the bricks used for the Tre Kronor castle which burned down. De Tre Kronorna, the three crowns, is the symbol of Stockholm and also adorns the top of City Hall’s tower.
9. Vasabron – Skeppsbron
We are leaving Norrmalm after just a short stretch and cross Vasabron over to Gamla Stan, the Old Town, which we’ll encircle, mainly by following the waterfront, firstly Munkbron, alongside the metro line, past Mälartorget and Kornhamnstorg, then over to the Skeppsbron side, opposite Skeppsholmen.
Note: Stockholm’s original heart nowadays has only just over 3000 inhabitants
10. Skeppsbron – Stallgatan
We run out from Gamla Stan over the completely flat Strömbron with a view of Kungsträdgården ahead on our left, but turn right instead and see the first 10km sign on the second hill of the course, Stallgatan.
Note: Blasieholmen was, until the 17th century, an island, separated from Norrmalm by Näckströmmen. At the battle of Brunkeberg in 1471, the Danes fled over Näckholm bridge which collapsed and many drowned on the flight to their homewardbound boats.
11. Blasieholmen – Strandvägen
From the crest of Stallgatan on Blasieholmen we see the first glimpse of Nybroviken which is reached by yet another descent. With Berzeli Park to the left, we can wave to the statue of actress, Margaretha Krook, outside the Royal Dramatic Theatre and set off along Strandvägen’s promenade.
Note: It took until the World Exhibition in 1897, until Strandvägen was finally accessible from Nybroplan to Djurgårdsbron. Before this it was lined with tumbledown shacks. Nybroviken was a stinking cesspool, even if it was used for laundry, and drinking water! The bay was barely navigable, filled with debris and wrecks. At the far end was Katthavet where latrines were emptied. This is today Berzeli Park.
12. Strandvägen – Karlaplan
Following the Djurgårdslinjens tram route, we complete the last flat stretch of the first part of the course before turning into Narvavägen’s almost 600m long avenue with its gradual incline. This is a perfect place for hill training in the spring, especially as we return here after almost 40km.
Note: Oscar’s Church, inaugurated in 1903, was the result of an architecture competition in which one condition was that it could not cost more than 325,000 kronor. Today, you wouldn’t even get 3 square metres of an apartment on Östermalm for that sum of money.
13. Karlaplan – Stureparken
Get your breath back again on Karlavägen up to Humlegården, where a right turn takes us upwards again along Sturegatan. We’ve soon covered the height from sea level back up to the Stadium.
Note: The austere Fältöversten, between Karlaplan and Valhallavägen, was built in the early 70s in the former ‘pit’ which was pure shantytown. Karlaplan is inspired by the Place d’Etoile in Paris and is the convergence of five streets. Originally Höken’s Gate was here which opened on to “Extreme Darkness”. In the corner of Narvavägen and Karlavägen, Strindberg watched over the transformation of Ladugårdsland into Östermalm.
14. Sturegatan – Tessinparken
From the incline up to Valhallavägen we spy the outline of the Stadium which we pass after almost a third of the race. Resist the temptation to stop if you are tired and full of negative thought. Everyone goes through a tough patch during a marathon. Bite off the kms one by one. Your focus is now on Gärdet and the end of Valhalla.
Note: Until the middle of the 18th century, Norra Djurgården, to our left as we turn on to Valhallavägen, was fenced off with gatekeepers, court gamekeepers and forest guards. Now it’s a wonderful place to stroll and perfect for easy long runs. The new Royal College of Music building is opposite the Stadium. The school the second oldest in the world dating back to 1771. Jussi Björling trained here, as well as Malena Ernman, Birgit Nilsson and Peter Jöback.
15. Tessinparken – Radiohuset
The initial part of the old marathon course which now comes after 14 km slopes gently down the whole of Valhallavägen. You can save some energy here but at the same time benefit from a higher average pace than for the whole race. The right turn from Valhallavägen into Oxenstiernsgatan takes us up a small slope towards Radiohuset.
Note: In Gustav Adolf Park between Valhalla- and Karlavägen the first international running competitions took place in 1891. The Dickson Cup was awarded to whoever won the undulating triangular mile race in less than five minutes.
16. Radiohuset – Villa Källhagen
From Radiohuset, Swedish Radio’s HQ, the course runs distinctly downhill towards Berwaldhallen concert hall and left along Diplomatstaden.
Note: For a long time what was to become Östermalm was known as Ladugårdslandet. Cows grazed and pigs rootled in the fields, a far cry from today’s embassy residences in Diplomatstaden. The 1930 Stockholm Exhibition was located here, which gave rise to functionalism, so strongly disliked by the then mayor, Carl Lindhagen, that he proposed a ban on the style.
A fairly flat section, which can, however, be exposed to the wind as Gärdet stretches out to the left and Djurgårdsbrunns canal to the right.
Note: Ladugårdsgärdet was a military exercise field, especially under the reign of Karl XIV John in the first half of the 19th century. The area has shrunk over the years, especially during the 1930s when residential housing was developed. The 155m tall Kaknästornet offers the best views over Stockholm, but when you run below it’s easy to miss the tower. And, after all what’s 155 metres? We’re running 262 times further!
18. Djurgårdsbrunnsvägen – Manillavägen
It’s extemely easy running down to Djurgårdsbrunns bridge – one more opportunity to lengthen your stride. Out on Djurgården, it will be more difficult. A long tough hill awaits here with a 3% gradient up towards Manillahemmet.
Note: Djurgårdsbrunns canal was dug up in 1834. The former waterway had previously been filled in to prevent ships from slipping past the tollgates at Blockhusudden. After the bridge we pass, a few hundred metres away to our left, Gröndal, Gustaf Frödings final home.
19 – 21. Djurgårdsvägen
A steep downhill from Manilla’s crest and a right turn on to the longest single stretch of road on the course, the slightly undulating Djurgårdsvägen. After rounding the Italian Embassy at Oakhill (fortunately on its lower side) the road flattens out again. Now there are no more hills until you reach Slussen! But first, before we leave Djurgården, we run past another magnificent building in Renaissance style (although built in the last century) on our left hand side, the Nordic Museum on Lejonslätten.
Note: 20km into the race, we pass Skansen. Artur Hazelius’ idea for an open air museum began with two wax dolls (which represented everyday life) and gradually developed from individual typical Swedish cottages to entire farmsteads. It also houses a zoo with predominantly Nordic animals. Many other countries have copied Skansen’s model.
21 – 23. Djurgårdsvägen – Nybroviken – Strömbron
The easy section has come at exactly the right time. When we have half of the race left and it’s beginning to feel tough and the finish line a long way off. Think then of regaining your strength. A marathon has both highs and lows. And now the crowds are increasing again!
Note: Here on the northwestern point of Valdemar Island (as Djurgården was formerly called) Johan III founded an animal park. A favourite pastime in the 17th century was animal baiting.
24. Gamla Stan
How many marathons run past fully-functioning palaces? We are doing so on our 24th kilometre, where there has been a palace for over eight centuries. The current one is not yet 300 years old and has 660 windows in its 1430 rooms.
Note: After the fire in spring 1697, the architect, Nicodemus Tessin the Younger designed the new palace in six weeks. He thought it could be built in seven years but it took 57, partly due to all of Karl XII’s expensive wars.
25. Slussen – Katarinavägen
Now you’ll feel the course’s latest incline, one kilometre from Slussen up Katarinavägen, which is steepest at the beginning but then levels out with Stockholms Ström behind us. Look up and take shorter steps. Don’t chase fellow-runners or increase your heart rate.
Note: The first lock was built by Dutch in the 17th century and was oiled with butter. Later versions were designed by the leading Swedish engineers of their era, Christoffer Polhem in the 18th century and Nils Ericsson the following century. We now have the fifth generation lock with Guldbron, the golden bridge. There have always been plenty of pubs around Slussen. Who doesn’t miss the classic Fläskoset (the Smell of Pork ) and Mässingstången (the Brass Pole)?
26. Folkungagatan – Magnus Ladulåsgatan
We head in the direction of WeFo (West of Folkungagaten). Yes, we’ve entered SoFo, as it’s called by estate agents, and we’re passing at least three closed-down cinemas, but even more biodynamic beards.
Note: Within the next 1500 metres, the course is lined with around 30 restaurants, as well as one of our 17 refreshment stations. You know you are on Södermalm when a block contains both the Roman Catholic cathedral and the Green Hunter pub.
27. Magnus Ladulåsgatan – Rosenlundsgatan
A new, flat stretch as we spin around Södra Station with a 90 degree bend, right on to Rosenlundsgatan. You’re not going to give up and take the commuter train to the Central Station, to skip nine kilometres? We’d discover if you did from the missing split times.
Note: Before the first Årsta bridge was built a hundred years ago, the old railway ran along Maria Bangata, from a bank across Årstaviken. It’s still there in the form of a pedestrian and cycle path which we’re running on now. Come back in September for Stockholm Half Marathon, then you can also run along here, the 18th kilometre.
28. Rosenlundsgatan – Lundagatan
The race begins for real now since we’re into the last third. On the new course, we only run one block of Horngatan. Gather your energy for when we leave Zinkensdamn behind us and continue left into Lundagatan, there’s a new uphill to one of the highest points on the course before a serious downhill stretch takes us to Högalids park.
Note: At the end of the 17th century, Frantz Zinck lived here for just five years. He could never afford to buy the ore depot at Tanto. Still his name lives on in Bajenland. Zinken is the home of Hammarby’s green and white bandy team.
We zigzag along, slightly downwards, from Högalid (“High Hill”) towards Knivsöder. Use the opportunity to take on some energy before we step out of Söder.
Note: Högalid church is designed by Ivar Tengbom who was later also responsible for the Concert Hall. The 84m high twin towers can be seen from large parts of Stockholm – a good landmark if you easily get lost.
On the classic course, which prevailed for over three decades, you had to cross Västerbron bridge twice and then with a steeper climb from Söder Mälarstrand. Now there’s a much easier approach from Långholmsgatan with a manageable incline and all the while a marvelous view.
Note: Västerbron offers one of the most beautiful views of Stockholm. To the right is Riddarfjärden with the silhouette of City Hall and Riddarholmen as a reminder of Stockholm’s early glory days. To the left, beyond Långholmen greenery, the traffic roars over Mälaren on Essingeleden. The waters are filled with boats of all kinds.
31. Around Rålambshovsparken
The art of mastering a long distance race consists of trying to maintain as consistant an effort level as possible. After allowing the others to rush past uphill, you can now calmly reel them in again by stretching out your stride. Train beforehand to hit the ground lightly when you run downhill otherwise you may have thigh problems towards the end of the race.
Note: We are now back on Kungsholmen which we left 23 kilometres ago at City Hall. Åke Rålamb leased the area where the park is now located in the beginning of the 18th century and despite him being evicted, it was still named after him.
32. Norr Mälarstrand – Scheelegatan
After having run on Norr Mälarstrand’s more rural west half, we turn back to our early kilometres at Kungsholmstorg and take the incline up towards Rådhuset.
Note: According to Lindhagen’s city plan of 1866 which transformed Stockholm into a modern city, there should have been an avenue from Norr Mälarstrand to Fleminggatan, the same road which we now take over Kungsholmstorg.
33. Scheelegatan – Fleminggatan
We complete the climb from Riddarfjärden over Kungsholmen along the entire Fleminggatan. Don’t stare at your watche and jump to conclusions that your pace is dropping. Keep up your rhythm and take your time at the refreshment stations. We are now on the final 10km!
Note: Kungsholmen was originally called Munklägret. The current name appeared in 1672, but the island later acquired the nickname Svältholmen (Hunger Island) since factories, tumbledown wooden huts or crowded tenements were typical and Separator on Fleminggatan was the country’s largest industry.
34. Fleminggatan – Torsgatan
We leave Kungsholmen the same way we entered on our 5th kilometre.
Note: We turn right after St Eriksplan and Vasapark is on the left. Before TVs were in every home, election debates drew massive crowds here. The duels between Tage Erlander and Bertil Ohlin in 1948 and 1952 were said to have attracted 50,000 spectators who cheered on their favourites, just like a football match.
35. Torsgatan – Östra Järnvägsgatan
The same route as km 4, except in the opposite direction. But after Norra Bantorget we continue onwards without jumping on the Arlanda Express train.
Note: Norra Bantorget is traditionally the heart of the labour movement with LO-borgen, the HQ of the trade unions and end of the May Day Parade.
36. Centralen – Vasabron
You can’t be more central as we run from Norrmalm to Gamla Stan, “the Town Between Bridges” and repeat the route we took after eight kilometres.
Note: When the Central Station was opened in 1871, Stockholm’s midpoint moved from Gamla Stan to Norrmalm. Today only just over 8000 live in this area of which only a quarter are in the city district of Lower Norrmalm.
37. Vasabron – Skeppsbron
38. Gamla Stan – – Stallgatan
40. Strandvägen – Karlaplan
41. Karlaplan – Sturegatan
42. Sturegatan – Stadion
The final kilometre starts on the gradual incline up Sturegatan. But we no longer take the shortest route to the Stadium, but squeeze out the last essential metres a few more blocks to Engelbreksgaten, where we finally turn in the right direction. The Olympic finish in the packed Stadium is overwhelming. The finish line is worthy of the whole journey, the 42 kilometres you have covered on race day as well as all the training km your legs have run on the way to Stockholm Marathon. We’ll do it again next year, won’t we?
Note: The Stadium was built for the 1912 Olympic Games. Before this there was a sports ground at the same place. The Stadium has witnessed more world records, 83, than any other athletics arena in the world.