Sweden is a small and elongate country in Scandinavia, which is located in the northern part of Europe. It does have mountains in the west, on the border to Norway. They are pretty small and humble, but they are perfect for running. In the eastern part of Sweden we have all kinds of terrain. On the coast there are hobs, slabs, rabble, rocks, and beaches mixed with meadow, coniferous, and birch forests.
My idea is that the story of trail running in Sweden has sprung up or developed out of orienteering, you know the sport of running around with a map. That sport was and still is pretty big in Sweden. Anyway, the Swedes got too lazy so they dropped the map and went running on trails instead. And speaking of the history of trail running, isn’t that the best thing we could ever occupy ourselves with? If you just go out running, in the forests, in the wild, on the rocks, or whatever terrain which is not asphalt, I think most of our problems would be solved.
Anyhow, I’m gonna write about some superb places for trail running if you ever visit Sweden.
The High Coast!
The Swedish High Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site by the reason that the land has risen 800 meters after the last ice age, as a result of the disappearance of pressure from glaciers. It is the fastest land rise in the world. That accounts for the unusual landscape with tall cliff formations and rabbles. The area is located in the middle of Sweden, on the coast of the Bothnian Gulf. The route reaches 79 miles and the best thing is that you can split it up exactly as you want. You can do it in one piece, two days, three days, or just hike it. Along the trail you always find some small and cute lodging places. And along these small villages you find wilderness, old forest with high biodiversity, hanging lichens, magical soft mosses, and a lot of singing birds. The trails extending through beaches, small hills, rocks, nice paths, and technical paths. It varies so much that you never get bored and you just want to go further to find out what comes next!
If you want to camp instead of staying inside, Sweden has something that is called all mans law or the right of commons. It means that you have the right to go wherever you want to go and camp wherever you want to camp. It is a great freedom to have because it makes it easy to get out. With that benefit comes the responsibility to clean up after yourself and to take care of the nature the land is offering.
In this moment there are some plans about making an ultra race next year on this amazing trail.
As I mentioned before, they are pretty small, but still very beautiful. If I just had to choose one place to run in the Swedish mountains, I would pick the mountains in Jämtland. It is located at the same latitude as the High Coast, but in the western part of the country. It is very settled for running. You go from hut to hut, and you can choose between trails or just go with a map in valleys without trails.
In most of the small mountain huts they actually have a restaurant, and all the mountain huts that belong to the Swedish tourist association (STF) surely can cook delicious food. And they pick out local and ecological ingredients to make their specialties in their restaurants. If you go to a smaller hut, you still can buy food and cook it yourself. Almost all the huts also have a wood-fired sauna. Imagine that! You have been out running a whole day, on amazing paths, you have seen so many new beautiful views. And when you’re at the end station for that day, you have a sauna and a cold bath in an alpine lake. And then you have the best meal you have ever tasted.
I promise you, that’s how it is in the Swedish mountains. It is the same here as in the High Coast according to how long you want to run. You can stay out for a week and easily run a marathon per day and still see new mountains, valleys, and stay in new huts. And if you’re lucky you get to see arctic foxes and hear the great snipe sing. Hearing that bird makes you feel like you’re in a fairy tale.
Sweden doesn’t have too many trail running races, but the few existing are good ones, and the sport is growing so the selection is getting wider. But if you’re in Sweden and want to compete in a trail running race, I would recommend the AXA Mountain Marathon. It has everything a mountain marathon in Sweden could offer. And the best thing with it is that you get as many waffles as you want when you’re finished. Well the other best thing is the views you have during the race.
Another cool competition is the Björkliden Arctic Mountain Marathon [Editor’s Note: The race website currently down, but the race is August 16-17 2013. Here’s the Haglöf’s BAMM website.], a two-day mountain marathon where you carry all the equipment you need for the night. You don’t know where you’re gonna run until the morning when the competition starts. At the breakfast, you get a map with some control points and then you choose the best way to get to them. It’s easy orienteering as you can almost not call it orienteering. The race takes part in the very northern part of Sweden and during the night it’s common to see the aurora borealis play on the sky.
And if you’re looking at shorter races the Salomon Trail Tour has a race almost every weekend in different places across the whole country during the months between April and October. The distances are between 3, 7, and 13 miles, and take part on super good technical trails.
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
Anyone who has run in Sweden, either as a local or as a visitor, please share your thoughts on trail running there.
Likewise, if you’re considering a trip to Sweden that involves trail running, ask away. Hopefully, someone will be able to answer your questions.