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.]