Marathons Races Reviews

Review of the 2022 Stockholm Marathon – A Beautiful City and Huge Race!

Written by Charlie

Here is my review of the Stockholm Marathon, from signing-up to the expo, course, and the awesome finish line. This is a race that deserves your attention!

This was the second time I had signed up for the Stockholm Marathon but only the first time I have run it. Before, I was unable to even train for it due to asthma/allergies but it always stuck with me as one I would want to run. Finally, I had my chance this last weekend to tackle this course and it would be a special marathon – my first live marathon in 3.5 years, in other words, first post-Covid era marathon for me. Here it is – my review of the Stockholm Marathon, 2022 edition.

Review of the Stockholm Marathon

Link: Stockholm Marathon

The Stockholm Marathon has a couple of great things going for it. First is the awesome finish. It ends in the stadium originally built for the 1912 Olympics, an Olympics that has a record of 83 records that had been set at it. Not many marathons can lay claim to having a finish line in an Olympic stadium, but the Stockholm Marathon has that!

Another thing is that the city of Stockholm is beautiful – I mean, really nice! I had a chance to wander around the day before the race and loved so many things about the city and saw how clean that it was. Now, maybe they did a really thorough cleaning before the thousands descended on the streets for the marathon or maybe it looks like that all the time – I cannot say for sure. But, I have a feeling it is a pretty clean city all the time.

One more thing that is great for this marathon is the size of the running crowd. The only event that takes place on that day is the marathon itself. This is different from many other Saturday marathons I have run in the past where they may also have a half-marathon, a 10K – some other distance. But, with over 15,000 runners signed up, this was the largest Saturday marathon I have ever taken part in. That means that you will never be alone throughout the race. There will always be a crowd of people with you.

It is because of that crowd that the race actually starts in two different waves – 12:00 and 12:10. It is decided which wave you start in based on a previous race time. I had a pretty good half marathon last fall that allowed me to start in the 12:00 wave (which was very important – more on that later!).

So, how good was the Stockholm Marathon?

One thing I need to point out at the start – paying for this marathon was a bit of a pain. My US credit card would not work and they said I need to do a bank transfer to make the payment. That is kind of nuts for a marathon as big as this. The only other time I had to pay for a marathon in this way was for the Tehran Marathon, and that was because of the inability of the major banks in the world to do business with Iran. Plus, Sweden is such a cashless society, it should have been easier to pay. In the end, I used an American Express card and set the payment country to Sweden (this does work with Amex for some reason so it is a nice way to make it work).

The Stockholm Marathon Expo

The expo at the Stockholm Marathon

The Stockholm Marathon expo takes place at Östermalms IP, a sports field about 300 meters past the Olympic Stadium. This is also the site of the staging area for the marathon itself since the starting line is just outside of this area.

The Expo was a well-put on affair. When running a foreign marathon as an American, it is important to adjust expectations for things like the expo as it may not have as many vendors as the large American marathons you are familiar with. But, the Stockholm Marathon expo was staffed with a good amount of vendors from local sports shops to the brand sponsors (like adidas and Garmin) as well as other marathons and races from around Europe.

The flow was well-organized. Before entering the tented area, you have your QR code scanned and you get your goodie bag right there. This bag also doubles as your bag for the bag drop on race day.

Once you get in, you can make your way to any of the stations where a volunteer will again scan your QR code and actually print out your bib and activate your timing device (which goes on the back of the bib) right there. It has been a while since I ran a live marathon but I really liked the efficiency of printing out bibs on the spot instead of having pre-arranged and personalized bags with the tags in them. It certainly made for a faster pickup!

By the way, you can actually register to run the marathon right up to an hour before the marathon starts! The expo stays open until the marathon start as well so it is very easy to get your packet that morning or even buy something you may have forgotten.

Once you get your bib, you make your way through the vendors. If you want to grab some running gear, there are plenty of options for that here. The title sponsor, adidas, also has a ton of gear for sale, including Stockholm Marathon-specific clothing.

After you clear the expo, you can make your way over to the included pasta dinner. This actually runs from 12:00 – 20:00 the day before the marathon! This is located just outside the marathon area.

The Stockholm Marathon Pasta Dinner

The pasta dinner

This is a hard area for me. With many marathons, people are used to either having to purchase a ticket for the pasta dinner or going someplace on their own. I have run a few different marathons where the pasta dinner was included and some of those were really good meals.

The reason this is hard for me is because it may be entirely based on my own preferences when it comes to pasta. I am used to the the big pans of pasta and then the big pans of sauce/meat sauce along with bread and salad. This is what I generally get at the included pasta dinners.

The Stockholm Marathon pasta dinner

For the Stockholm Marathon pasta dinner, you walk in the area (you are supposed to receive a ticket with your goodie bag – I did not receive mine but they let me in anyway since I was clearly running it) and they give you a bowl with the pasta in it.

They basically mixed the salad in with the pasta and put some pesto on it along with olives. Also, it is cold. For the bread, it is not bread but something like a large matzo cracker and butter.

While it was ok, it was definitely not something I would have paid for. In fact, had the rain not started at this point, I probably would have skipped this and gone for pasta on my own. But, I had been trying to plan this for around 7PM since the marathon did not start until noon the next day. So, I just went ahead and ate it (and you get one serving). Again, I say this is hard because I know I have my own pasta preferences and I don’t want to knock them because it didn’t match what that is. But, I wanted to also let you know so you know what to expect.

Transportation for the Stockholm Marathon

The Stockholm Central metro station

I really loved the Stockholm metro system. Not only is it really easy to get around but even paying is simple. Just scan your credit card/phone (or, I even used Garmin pay on my Garmin watch to pay) and you pay the flat 39Kr (about $4) to travel the metros. Also, the metro stations were designed by local artists so there are several that are really amazing. I am including a couple of my favorites here but definitely interesting to check out on your own!

The Rådhuset station

The Solna Centrum station

You will want to take the Red line to the Stadion station. From there, it is like 400 meters to the Olympic stadium. Simple and easy! It is only 2 stops from the Central terminal station so that makes it really easy to get around from there.

There are also plenty of e-bikes and scooters you can rent with the various apps but they are hard to find at the marathon site after the race so stick with the metro. I would avoid driving due to all the road closures.

The Stockholm Marathon – Starting Area

Starting line

Here is one thing to know and think about – the marathon start time is at 12:00 and 12:10PM. This is likely later than any marathon you have ever run before. I thought I would like it but it does end up making for some long waiting times! Plus, it starts right around many people’s lunch time and then they may be running until almost dinner time so it makes for a somewhat confusing fueling schedule if you are not ready for that. So, make sure you practice your fueling strategy during a long run that takes place at the same time.

The waiting game for the noon start!

The line of runners making their way to the starting line

The starting area is back at Östermalms IP where there are tons of porta-potties. Just like most races, you will find that some of the best lines to wait in are closer to the end but not all the way at the end. I saw lines with over a hundred people in it but just a bit further, only 30 people. If you need to, there are trees just up past the bathroom stations.

The staging area for the Stockholm Marathon

There is plenty of area around here to stretch and get loosened up for sure. There is also plenty of space with shade if it is a particularly sunny day (which it was!).

You have to be at the startling line no later than 15 minutes before the start of your wave. This area is extremely well designed. It goes by the letter of your seeded start and they check your bib before letting you enter the corral.

There are some announcements, some short welcomes and acknowledgments and then the Swedish national anthem plays. At last, right at 12:00 on the dot, the starting gun goes off and off we go!

The Stockholm Marathon – The Course

The course map from the Stockholm Marathon

Check out this link for an incredibly well described version of what the course covers.

The elevation profile of the Stockholm Marathon

The course designers did a nice job of laying out a course that took in many of the beautiful sights of the city while also having some areas repeat which makes it easier to put out aid stations. Sure, it is a little weird to see a sign for 35KM when you are only about 4 miles in but you obviously know you aren’t that far into the race just yet. 🙂

The starting area

Except for like the first mile, I did not find any section of the course too packed to be able to navigate. The streets were wide enough to accommodate all the runners, even when some of the 12:10 starters caught up to the 12:00 starters.

One of the nice things about having repeatable areas of the course was the crowd presence. It was much easier for people to cheer on their loved ones when they could just stay in one general area. And there were a lot of spectators! There were also some areas of live music, including a large band! I couldn’t really think of any area where you would run more than 1/2 mile without seeing some people to cheer you on.

The aid stations were well-stocked. There were water stations that were around every 2-3km apart with some aid stations having energy drinks and even a Red Bull station later on in the race. They also had 2 or 3 cola stations for those that wanted to partake of that. There were 3 different stations with bananas and one for apple slices.

It was hotter than expected but the organizers were still prepared for that with 3 or 4 water mist stations along the way. This was very appreciated for sure!

More Bathroom Solutions?

The one thing that I could say something not overly positive about was the bathroom stops. Unless I missed it (which is possible due to the size of the crowd), I did not see any porte-potties until around mile 7 or 8. I had to go pretty bad from right after the start (in spite of stopping to go just before the start).

In most marathons, I would have jumped off the course and used a tree/something similar. But, so much of the marathon is run in the city and I never saw anyone else do that so I figured that was definitely not allowed! There were a few areas later in the race that had trees but that was not until the later stages so earlier on, you had to rely on the porta-potties and you really can never have too many. One of the worst things is having to stand in line for several minutes during the race to use one.

Again, this is not a huge negative, just slightly less than positive. In most of my marathons, I don’t even need to think about this until mile 13 or more anyway but this was different.

The Tunnel

This was kind of a really cool area around mile 18-19. The tunnel is about 600 meters long so it is definitely long enough to give your GPS watch grief and also an area where you will likely need to lift your sunglasses! But, it is very cool (temperature-wise) in here and even though there is a part that goes up a bit, it feels like it is a very fast area. It was a nice respite from the hot sunshine and also marks the spot where you have about 6.2 miles /10km left.

The Stockholm Marathon – The Finish

Again, the finish area was one of the things that drew me to the Stockholm Marathon. Finishing inside an Olympic stadium? Very cool! Unfortunately, I did not have the kind of entrance and finishing kick I had hoped for due to some bad muscle issues during the race. So, instead (since I really wasn’t even able to go fast at this point), I pulled out my iPhone and shot some video of the inside of the stadium. It was certainly a great way to finish a race and there were thousands inside cheering everyone on!

Once you finish, you have a volunteer to give you your medal and then you walk out of the stadium to grab your water and then follow the crowd of runners to the starting area where they had the finisher shirts and more liquids and food.

Unfortunately, I literally had to run from the finish to the metro to be able to catch my plane (more on that later!) so I had to skip getting my finisher’s shirt. This is the first marathon I have ever run where you did not get the race shirt in the bag at the start but this is because you can only get one of these shirts if you finish the race! It even says “Stockholm Marathon Finisher” on it! Thankfully, the Stockholm Marathon team was kind enough to send it on to my mailing address so I will get it anyway! That’s going the extra mile!

My Race

My stamina as noted by my Garmin

Rather than do a separate post on this, I will just quickly give my own review of my personal race. While I had a decent training window (12 weeks) and I was trying out a new program (focusing more on the workouts and fewer overall miles each week, perfect for me because of my busy schedule the last three months), the race did not work out like I had wanted.

When I started training, I was training with paces for a 3:20 marathon. This would have been a 9 minute PR and I really felt like it was doable. However, around week 7, I got food poisoning and was laid up for three days. During that time, I had a fever (which my watch estimated help me burn 4,000 calories while lying in bed!) and barely left the bed except for the bathroom. I lost 5 pounds in those three days. My first workout back was really tough and didn’t go all that well.

Also after that, I started having an old foot injury start popping up again. I was able to manage it but almost none of my workouts from that point forward were on the paces I needed. In the week leading up to the marathon, both my Garmin and my Coros watches (I used both for each run for comparison – reviews and comparisons coming) were estimating I was in 3:37 marathon shape. I was ok with that.

But, I did have one big problem. I found out two days before the race that the Arlanda Express, the 18 minute train journey from the central station to the airport, would not be running the weekend of the race. The Arlanda Express people said that this was about track work that had been planned long in advance but I find it incredibly dumb to halt this popular transportation method on a weekend when you have thousands of visitors trying to get to the airport. It was not just me – every local and visitor I spoke with talking about how dumb this was.

More on this “race” in another post!

So, this was in my mind the whole race – just trying to run a conservative race so I could finish and get to the airport. But, at mile 16, I started getting pain in my hip flexor followed by stomach cramps (possibly due to having to hold off going to the bathroom as long as I did?). The muscle pain caused my leg to feel more like a stiff board that I was just swinging along. I went from a pretty low 143-145 heart rate average to over 160 with a much slower pace.

I knew my 3:40 would be out and was now just hoping to not miss my flight. In the end, it took me 4:05 to finish. I wasn’t really happy with that at all but was also happy to have finished it with the problems and that I had the opportunity to run my first live marathon in 3.5 years!

According to my Garmin, I ran for 3 hours and 36 minutes and walked for 29 minutes. My stats were as follows:

  • Pace: 9:16 per mile (best was 7:43)
  • Time: 4 hours and 5 minutes
  • Calories Burned: 3,445
  • Estimated Sweat Loss: 3449ml
  • First 13.1 Miles: 1:50
  • Second 13.1 Miles: 2:15

Bottom Line

The Stockholm Marathon was everything I had thought it would be – well-run, big crowds, lots of runners, and some beautiful sites with a historic ending. I heartily recommend any runner that is looking for a marathon to run to consider the Stockholm Marathon. It is definitely up there as one of my favorite courses and favorite endings of all my 60+ marathons/ultras.

Thanks to the Stockholm Marathon organizers and sponsors for putting on such a great event! And thanks also to the huge staff of volunteers that worked so hard to make that day so special for us runners.

Also, I had messaged the organizers after the race to see if I could pay to have my finishers shirt sent to me (since I didn’t have time to grab it). They replied in less than two hours and said they would just send it to me for nothing! Awesome response and response time!

I paid for the entry to the Stockholm Marathon myself and this post was not sponsored in any way.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

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