Copenhagen is a pretty wonderful place and the marathon is definitely up there with the best of them. We did have a really enjoyable weekend and thoroughly recommend the marathon and the city itself but (can’t resist this) “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”! A bit strong perhaps, but we do have a few minor reservations. Here are are the good and not so good aspects of our Copenhagen Marathon weekend.

Wonder, Wonderful Copenhagen

City of Copenhagen

Copenhagen ranks highly in the World’s best cities and rightly so. Architecturally historic buildings sit comfortably alongside more contemporary designs. There’s a pleasant balance of urban landscape, green space, and lots of water in the form of canals, lakes and the harbour. In our short weekend break, we didn’t have time to do the city justice, and we’re not going to try describe it in detail here – others have done it better. We’d just like to encourage you to visit it yourself; you won’t be disappointed.

Amager Strandpark parkrun

Copenhagen has three parkruns close to the city centre. We chose to go to Amager Strandpark, not the biggest but possibly the most picturesque. Strandpark translates to beach park and the 5K run takes place on paths and bridges on Copenhagen’s largest beach. An additional reason for going there was that during the run we would get a view of ‘The Bridge’ – The Oresund Bridge connecting Denmark to Sweden, made famous in the TV drama of the same name.

Unfortunately on the day we saw very little – we could barely find the parkrun start. Fog had rolled in from the sea obscuring most of the landscape. It was very atmospheric though and didn’t prevent this small, low-key parkrun from being as welcoming and enjoyable as ever.

We got to chat to runners from a number of different countries. Some were local and others from a variety of countries who, like us, were in town for the marathon, including one of our own Richmond parkrun regulars. Good to see you there George.

Green city

Copenhagen consistently ranks highly, often number one, in lists of the world’s top Green cities. The city’s stated aim is to be the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025. With its recycling programs, cycle lanes, pristine harbour waters and green, open public spaces it is well on its way to getting there. 70% of hotels hold official certification for sustainability and the city uses a high percentage of organic foods. We loved our mini recycling bin in our hotel room – the Scandic Kodbyen (in very convenient walking distance from the start and finish of the race).

Sustainability is being ‘built into’ the architecture of the city – for example, a new fossil-fuel-free power plant will double up as a ski slope, climbing wall and jogging track.

Copenhagen was one of the first cities in the world to launch free city bikes for its citizens and visitors and it became the first official bike city in 2008. Other cities now use Copenhagen as a reference point for how to plan a bike culture – planners call it ‘copenhagenisation’. More about this bike culture later!

Marathon – good bits

As we said at the start, this was an excellent marathon overall and one that we would definitely consider going back to. The course was flat, potentially fast and attractive. It included parts of the city centre, parks, canals and docks. The route gave runners a real feel for the city with its impressive historic buildings, fashionable spots such as the meat-packing restaurant district, the wide open spaces, colourful residential areas and maritime districts. Some sections of the course were visited twice but this did not detract from the interest value.

One of the most noticeable aspects of the event was the support en route. From the very outset the course was lined with enthusiastic and vocal spectators making good use of participants’ names on their bibs. Along with the name was also the runner’s country flag. Apparently 34% of the runners were international.

Number pick-up was at a small but useful expo and as it was the 40th anniversary we were awarded with a special anniversary bag. Unfortunately there was some confusion as to how to close it – it was quite amusing seeing individuals solutions to the problem.

On race day, bag drop and pick up was very efficient. Aid stations, with a very non-offensive sports drink, water, fruit and gels, were frequent. As it was a very hot and sunny day water sprays were present at most of these stations. The finisher’s medal was good quality, and runners were given the opportunity for free finish line photos as well as free downloadable photos throughout the route and a finish line video. The post-run statistics were also excellent.

Danish pastries, drinks and alcohol-free beer were available in the race village at the end of the race and the harbour pool was open for those who wanted to cool down. The hot chocolate (!!!) was surprisingly good.

Friends

We were in Copenhagen to meet up with Jon and Kevin, from North Wales Road Runners, on what has become an annual May European marathon weekend. Last year we were in Mainz, Germany and the previous year Geneva. We bumped into Baz, another friend, at the expo. All three years have been unexpectedly hot. So much so that we are looking further north for next year’s destination.

The weekend was enjoyable as always but made even more special by Kevin getting a marathon PB in a time of 3:35:28, at an age when PBs don’t come too often. Huge congratulations Kevin.

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

(maybe something of an over-statement!)

Expense

This is not by way of a criticism – it is what it is. Copenhagen is an expensive place to visit. Eating out, alcohol, accommodation and taxis are particularly costly. We didn’t feel that we were being ripped off as tourists, but it’s something visitors need to be aware of.

Bicycles

It’s hard to be critical of something that in general we approve of, but the number of bicycles, electric bikes and scooters in Copenhagen can be quite overwhelming at first, especially at rush hour. Concentration is needed to negotiate the separate pedestrian and cycle lanes; we kept finding ourselves in the wrong areas and not knowing which direction to expect bikes, cars etc. to be coming from.

Also, how does anyone find their own bike at the end of the day?

Marathon – bad bits

This year the Copenhagen marathon had a record 13,000 runners. In our experience, it’s not a good idea to allow so many participants to self-seed at the start – and in fact, as the course was very narrow in places, a more organised wave start might have avoided the congestion and bottlenecks that arose.

In support of their green credentials, the organisers provided water in cups, rather than plastic bottles, at the aid stations. However, possibly because the day was so hot, the volunteers had difficulty filling enough cups to keep up with runners’ demands. Also, aid stations were just on one side of the road and got very crowded; this was not a marathon where you could just grab and go, certainly not around the 4:00-4:30 peak time.

One other minor complaint we had was the colour of the women’s t-shirt – a sickly elastoplast shade of pink. No-one we spoke to appreciated it.

Thats about it. We were also going to complain about the organisers allowing a large sledge-like vehicle, complete with six handlers, on what turned out to be a pretty narrow course. Unfortunately for the first half of the marathon we seemed to be running at the same pace as the sledge, and it nearly took us out on a few corners. We did, however, notice how popular the sledge-plus-handlers seemed to be with the supporters, so we looked into what it was about. Turns out that the Slaedepatruljen Sirius (the Sirius Dog-sled Patrol) is part of an elite Danish naval unit which conducts long-range reconnaissance patrolling to enforce Danish sovereignty in the Arctic wilderness of northern and eastern Greenland. The guys pulling the sledge were coming to the end of a six-month training course and hoping to be among the final twelve to be picked to go out for 26 months of duty, which is carried out in pairs, often with no additional human contact for four months at a time. I think we’ll let them off with their poor driving at times!

Note: Since publishing this blog we have been informed that the organisers ran out of marathon medals for those runners finishing towards the end of the field. We think this is unforgivable. There should be a medal available for every one who has paid an entry fee and completes the course. Nothing else is acceptable whatever the reason given.

Sun stroke

The weather when we arrived in Copenhagen on Friday afternoon was cold and wet. We found it hard to keep warm in the evening when we went out for dinner. Saturday morning, as we said, was foggy and cool though it did brighten up a bit later in the day. So obviously we wake up on race day to brilliant sunshine and what turned out to be a record high temperature for the time of year. We’ve run hot marathons before and know to keep hydrated, and in fact weren’t too unhappy about this turnaround in the weather. Neither of us was planning to race the event with the Comrades marathon only three weeks away, and this would be good acclimatisation. Unfortunately, despite taking precautions, Jacquie ended the marathon feeling sick, dizzy and alternately extremely hot then very cold – probably a touch of sun/heat stroke. It does get more difficult for older runners to regulate body temperature when running in the heat, but with Comrades coming soon this is something that needs to be thought about. The journey home wasn’t too pleasant.

Journey Home

Talking about journeys home – this is an unavoidable aspect of travelling abroad to run marathons. Sometimes the flights will be delayed. Sunday evenings seem to be particularly bad for this. Our flight to Gatwick was delayed by about an hour which wasn’t too problematic, but Jon and Kevin were flying back to Manchester and due to a power cut at Manchester airport ended up spending the night in Copenhagen airport with very few facilities and a flight home at 8 the next morning. Not the best end to a brilliant weekend.