Trail Running in Denmark

Trail Running in Denmark
Guest writer Martin Permin has written the follow guide to trail running in Denmark.

The Setting

Denmark is the relatively small piece of land (actually two islands and a half-island) situated in The North Sea, squeezed in between Norway, Sweden, and Germany. Unlike its northern and eastern neighbors Denmark is a relatively flat country, its highest natural point: Møllehøj (Mill-fell) reaches only 170 meters above sea level (558 feet).

In the late 17th century the vast forest that covered most of Denmark was in great part cut down due to the rebuilding of the Danish fleet, this means that the forests that are now scattered across Denmark are controlled and few old-growth forests remain.

But even with systematically planted forests and flat terrain, Denmark is quite a wonderful country for trail runners. Though the scenery may not be as diverse as that of other European countries, the well-planned, easily accessible, and nicely groomed system of trails that runs through the Danish forests makes for near-perfect running conditions for trail enthusiast of any level.

Denmark has the largest public sector in the world (i.e., the government pays for everything), which means that the trails and dirt roads in Denmark are being attended to by the establishment. Every Danish forest has a system of dirt roads and trails – varying in size from narrow single-track trails to wider ones big enough to fit a car – running through them.

Where to run

There are several places one might want to run when visiting Denmark, here is a list of some of the more prominent:

Bornholm
The island of Bornholm closer to Sweden than Denmark, but belongs to Denmark. The nature of the island greatly resemblance to the rugged, cliff filled landscape of Sweden and is therefore a popular vacation destination for runners of all ages and levels. The Salomon Hammer Trail (mentioned below) is held here, as well as the fantastic stage run “Etape Bornholm” wherein a marathon is raced over the course of five days, the race area each day moving to a new spot on the island, resulting in five widely different stages – all of which takes the runners through plenty of the beautiful nature the islands offers.

Forests
Lots of forests are scattered all across Denmark. Hilly, or flat, oak, or pine; you’ve got it. These forests with their many well-maintained trails are home to a lot of Danish runners and mountain bikers – the infrastructure of the Danish forests are unlike that of any place in the world and are definitely worth a visit.

Particularly the forests of northern Zealand (the island on which Copenhagen is situated) is worth checking out. To explore these forests where the royal family used to hunt deer and ride is always a pleasure and never gets old.

Mols Bjerge
This Danish national park is as hilly as it gets in the country. A run here is without doubt a joy, and the hilly terrain provides effective lactate training, even for the tougher mountain ultras outside of Denmark.

Denmark Mols Bjerge

Greenland and the Faroe Islands

Both Greenland and the Faeroe Islands are technically a part of Denmark, and even though they’re both far from the Danish mainland they deserve to be mentioned. Ultra runs and ultra-ski races are held on Greenland each year. Runners and skiers cross the Arctic icecap and defy some of the most extreme weather conditions known to man. The Faroe Islands are a group of islands situated in the Norwegian Sea somewhere between England and Iceland. These islands tops National Geographic’s rated list of island destinations across the world, and with their beautiful nature they are sure to make an everlasting impression on any wild-loving trail runner.

Saksun Faroe Islands

A view in the Faroe Islands. Photo: Wikipedia

The Scene

Trail running isn’t a big sport in Denmark, but a couple of decades ago, in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Denmark produced a string of quite successful cross-country runners who helped bring some attention to the sport (note that cross-country running in Scandinavia resembles trail running as we know it from the rest of the world, as it is often run on small trails crossing tough hills and not on grass fields as it is custom in, for example, America).

Denmark is the home of the world’s oldest fun run – the so-called Eremitageløbet (Danish link), which was run for the first time in 1969. Each year over 20,000 runners compete for the title, blazing through the grueling 13k course (almost completely on dirt roads/trails) including at least three major hills. The DHL Relay, the world’s largest fun run (mostly for corporations) takes place in fælledparken, a park in the heart of the capital Copenhagen.

Start of Eremitageløbet

The start of Eremitageløbet. Photo: Kim Gudmand.

Ultra wise there is one notable race held in Denmark: The Salomon Hammer Trail Run. Held on the island of Bornholm situated closer to Sweden than Denmark, the race offers 100-mile and 50-mile courses. The Hammer trail is an official qualifying race for Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc. In 2011, the 100 miler was won in the time of 21:51 and the 50 miler in 08:50 (both by Danish locals).

In Conclusion

Despite its small size Denmark is a country with wide opportunities for trail running. Well-maintained trails are all over the country – and though you’ll have a hard time finding scenic trails like the ones of Sweden and Norway, the nature is beautiful and never far from the urban areas.

Denmark doesn’t flaunt much of a “scene” with regards to ultra and/or trail running – though the possibilities are wide. If you’re looking for hard mountains to climb, you won’t find them here – what you will find is a country full of (more or less) flat trails in beautiful natural surroundings.

Call for Comments

Anyone who has run in Denmark, either as a local or as a visitor, please share your thoughts on trail running there.

Likewise, if you’re considering taking a Danish trip that involves trail running, ask away. Hopefully, someone will be able to answer your questions.

[Above is the fifth in a series that profiles trail running in countries around the world. We’ve recruited local experts for each of the articles. Please get in touch if you are interested in helping develop a profile for your country.]

There are 27 comments

  1. Jur9en

    Informal weekly trail runs around Copenhagen are organized by the Copenhagen hash house harriers.

    See: http://ch3.dk/. A similar group can be found in Århus; http://ah3.dk/
    They are not very hardcore runners, but a fun bunch of people to hang out with and friendly to foreigners & expats. And they know all the trails around Copenhagen.

  2. Alex from New Haven

    This is super exciting as I'm both an American and Danish citizen (through my mother) but haven't been there since I've taken up ultra.

    One thing to add: There are several (many?) listings for timed 6,12, 24-hour races in Denmark, and I think given the very limited geography (it is very very flat) I think this is more the ultra scene. If you go to any of the standard international ultra sites they'll have them listed.

    Finally, I have to say, and I know I'm biased, the Danish people are very friendly and know how to have a good time. It is totally common for totally respectable people (like my grandmother while she was alive) to up WAY past midnight partying at a bonfire. And it is very easy to get by on English.

  3. Greg Friedman

    How fortuitous to find this article. My family and I are moving to Copenhagen, Denmark in July.

    Although we call Colorado home and love the big mountain trails, we haven't been able to spend more than 6 weeks at a time in Colorado for most of the past 8 years. Somehow, we keep ending up in flat countries: previously Bangladesh and now Denmark. Of course, as the article points out, being in a flat country doesn't mean a lack of fun trails.

    I've been spending far too many late nights wondering how to get my trail running fix in when I get to Copenhagen.

    We, too, figured the Hashers would be a good resource for finding trails and meeting people.

    We'd love any additional thoughts on where to run and good race choices. I'd also really appreciate any thoughts on where to find a place to live with access from my door to the trails in less than a mile – asking too much?

    If the author or anyone else in the know can contact us directly or tell us how to contact him, we'd really appreciate it.

    As I close this comment, my wife is out running an easy 11 on the trails between Breckenridge and Frisco, CO and it's snowing for the first time in a month. My turn next, yippee!

  4. Sergio Minder

    You mention ultras in Greenland?

    Could you provide some names and/or links? Really interested in racing in Greenland! Thanks.

  5. Morten Falbe-Hansen

    As a local I just want to point out two unique places for trailrunning in Denmark:

    – As mentioned above we don't have any mountains in Denmark, but sometimes the rugged and wild west coast of the peninsula Jutland can be just as breathtaking. You are allowed to run anywhere along the beach, and if your legs and feet can handle running on the sand, you are in for a great experince. Also take a look at the recently established Thy National Park Marathon.

    – In my own backyard Silkeborg the possibilities for trailrunning is almost endless. Blessed with forrests and lakes, and some of the most hilly terrain in Denmark we are spoiled for choice. In a country that is a bit too well groomed and mainly consits of farmland, it is also a privillege to have a trail system stretching all the way to Ry (25 km) that only cross two paved roads. The trail offers splendid forest and lake views. 

  6. Jeff

    Great post. Anybody out there care to write something similar for Sweden? I'm spending next summer in Varmland, and I need some tips.

  7. Matt Laye

    Having lived for the past 2.5 years in Copenhagen I can offer some (geographically limited) insight as well.

    I can say this about the trails in the Copenhagen area, they don't compare to Northern California (or Missouri for that matter), but they have some trails that will keep you sane. I never owned a car, but I think it would have been better if I was not dependent upon train transportation to get out to the forested areas to the north of Copenhagen especially.

    As far as location to live is concerned I lived in Amager and while there are some trails and paths on the island it is not nearly as nice as the northern part of Copenhagen or better yet, Hellerup. I did however enjoy a nice run commute along the harbor to work as long as the wind was mellow and the temps were above 0C.

    I also have to disagree that the Eremitageløbet contains 3 "major" hills. The total elevation change is 393 ft, which only those using Copenhagen area can consider hilly (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/52612880). That being said, it is a must run.

    I know that there is also a series of trail races that Solomon puts on that are suppose to be pretty good.

    There is a limited cross country season that might be worth checking into.

    I ran the road races put on my Amager Track Club (http://www.amageratletik.dk/) and enjoyed those quite a bit. You can also connect up with Sparta (the largest training group, http://sparta.dk/1we.aspx) and they will have info on races. Other websites for races (http://trimguiden.dk/ or http://www.friidrott.se/ for Sweden) and clubs (http://www.fifatletik.dk/)

    Some general comments about my experiences of running in Copenhagen. If you don't own tights of some sort, get some. Wind proof briefs, enough said. Whatever running attire you are going to want buy before arriving, so expensive. If you want to run a hilly trail race go into with low expectations and some downhill treadmill running.

    You can go through my garmin to see some of the routes that I ran in Copenhagen (weekend long runs will be most informative) and if you have any questions let me know.

  8. Kawus

    Being a local I have to let you know about South Funen Archipelago Trail. Its 137 miles of great and beautiful trails.

    But if you are looking for climbs dont go to Denmark A's its all flat.

    I am in Boulder, Co on vacation at the moment to run all the great trails here. The climbs here are unbelievable. Green Mountain is amazing and I hope to do

  9. Kawus

    Bear Peak in the coming days. But Denmark is a great country with great people. And lots of runners.

    Let me know if you'd like a tour of the South Funen Archipelago Trail.

    Cheers

  10. chalky

    I had the privilege of living in Denmark for a year for school but unfortunately was not into trail running at the time and spent all my time cycling, of which Denmark definitely has ample paths to do so.

    These are great tips and I'm looking forward to my next trip so I can explore a little bit more. Does anyone know if there are any trails near Skagen? I've always wanted to explore that area.

  11. Martin

    Hi guys,

    Seems like a lot of people have insights on running in Denmark

    @Friedman – you can contact me on martinpermin at gmail dot com (:

    – I'll be happy to answer any questions

    /Martin Permin

  12. Thomas

    Hi

    I am also from Denmark and I am really pleased with the trail that we have eventhough we have no big mountains. I have been running TRansalpine Run, Trail De Paris and other trail runs but I am still in love with the nice single tracks and trail we have in our backyeard.

    Furthermore we have on of the best producer of trail and natural motion running shoe in Denmark – ECCO

    /Thomas

  13. Greg Friedman

    Thomas,

    We ran TransRockies in 2011 and would love to do TransAlpine in 2013. Glad to hear it can be done training in Denmark. I'd love to get your contact info for when we arrive in July. You can reach me at grfriedman (a) gmail

    Thanks,

    Greg

  14. Greg Friedman

    Kawus,

    Bear and Green are both great. I imagine that the snow has cleared enough to make running up Gregory Canyon to Ranger to the summit of Green not too treacherous. That is my favorite route up. Otherwise, taking the Bear Canyon trail from the Mesa trail and then up Green Bear to Green is really nice and is much more runnable (less steep, less ice).

    I'd love to get your contact info for when we arrive in Copenhagen in July. You can reach me at grfriedman (a) gmail

    Thanks,

    Greg

    1. Kawus

      Hi Greg

      Awesome, I will take your suggested route tomorrow. There is not much snow only on the last part of greenman. I did snow yesterday though, and I only did the flatirons today.

      I am available at kawus.nouri (a) gmail.

      thanks,

      kawus

  15. Rasmus Pedersen

    I live in Ry, which is just in the middle of some of the largest forestarea in Denmark. There are several possibilities to go trainrunning, and compared to running in the mountains, you will not get the same meters of climbing or the rocky trails. In Denmark it will be singletracks with a lot of roots and with smaller "climbs" (not so steep – less than 100 meters in elevation, and rarely more than 20-25% in grade). A nice track could be parts of the walking path between Aarhus and Silkeborg. I have shot this small video of the tracks in my backyard (Siim Skov, Ry): http://youtu.be/BVCAJRmyWEI
    I will be happy to whare tracks around Ry if someone needs advice ;-)

    Enjoy,

    Rasmus Pedersen, [email protected]

  16. Rolfe

    Wondering if anyone has specific recommendations for trail running in the Faroe Islands? I'll be based in Torshavn and want to explore.

  17. Inge

    No ultras (yet), but tough and stunning trail races – at least one in 2012: Leif den Lykkeliges Marathon in South Greenland on August 18th – check out http://www.gar.gl for info – highly recommend it and will be doing it for the 2nd time around this year. Polar Circle Marathon,a lot less hilly but tough as it takes place near the Polar Circle in late October and includes a 7k loop going on the inland ice cap – sold out this year, though. I' m going :-)

    Other than that a few adventure race races/hikes + road marathons (not trail but more hilly than your usual marathon) in Nuuk, Maniitsoq and Aasiaat. The latter is called Midnight Sun Marathon as it is run late evening, late june, when the sun is shining 24-hours a day. Nuuk is, I think on August 8th this year and Aasiaat on June 29th. Not sure about Maniitsoq. Check out the great website http://www.greenland.com – it has some information and links to at least some of these great sport events. Hope to see you around – Greenland is great place and a future ultramarathon-trail-mekka in my opinion. Love training her…..

    1. Inge

      …training herE….of course..

      Hope the above is useful information which will make trail-/ultrarunners interested in coming here to race or train.

  18. Connie

    I am heading to Farum, Denmark tomorrow and great to hear there are good trail runs. I am in Santa Cruz Mtns, CA and lucky enough to have plentiful single-track trails thru redwood forest. Thanks for heads up, I will add in tights and long sleeve to my suitcase.

  19. Dani

    Hi,

    My family and me will be touring around Denmark with our campervan from August 11th to 28th. I love trail running here where I live in the North of Spain. No doubt I will be putting on my trainers everyday we are in Denmark to run where I can: beach, forest, asphalt,… but can any body suggest a popular race in between those dates?. Anything is fine between 10 km and the marathon ( I just ran my first one this year) and would love to run my first race abroad.

    Thanks!

  20. Rasmus

    You should put a request on this FAcebook group: Ry Trail Runners https://m.facebook.com/#!/groups/103694229762757 and I am sure you will recieve some response. As far as I remember there is a very nice trail marathon (incl half marathon) at Hjerl Hede which is a very nice area and with some beautiful singletracks ;-) Put you itinerary in the request as well because then perhaps someone would line to show you some local trails ;-) I live in one of the best trailrunning areas (7 km from the highest "mountain") and are one of the founders of the Montane Lakeland 50K Denmark which is held for the first time the 7th of September http://www.ultratrail.dk. You should stay a couple of seeks more ;-) BR Rasmus

  21. Dani

    Hi Rasmus,

    Thanks for replying. I wish I could stay a bit longer… but unfortunately life is hard and one has to keep working….

    Our itineray is not defined yet, but we want to go up to Skagen and visit all around Jutland. We still do not know if we will go to the Copenhaguen area since we have been there in the past, but if there is a good race we may go again.

    One thing I will find a bit strange is the absence of mountains. Here where I live, it is difficult to run more than 2 km without a steep path. In fact I need to think how to train while I am in your land since on 21st September I will be running my first K32 trail race with +3000 m total elevation gain. I may go to your highest peak and run it up 17 times! :)

    Best regards and thanks again.

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