Yesterday, July 7th, I ran my first trail race! To be honest, I haven't been running on trails for the past ten years so I guess you could call it a "first trail run" of the decade as well. The race is called KolmårdsRundan Trail Marathon. There are a few different distances (including a marathon, obviously) and I ran the 6,2k.
I wasn't sure what to expect really, but when I woke up in the morning and saw that it had been raining all night without any intention of stopping anytime soon, I realized that it would add yet another dangerous aspect to the whole run haha! Running on slippery roots and rocks is like asking to sprain something, but it just meant that I would have to be a bit more careful and if necessary run a bit slower than I would if it was completely dry.
Kvarsebo IK, a small organization in Sweden, organized the race, but it was still very professional, and everything worked just fine. I have no complaints whatsoever. We arrived, picked up the chips that we strapped to our ankles and waited around until it was our turn to start at 12:00.
It was raining non-stop all day, up until this point, but stopped in time for the start. Once we were off, it became apparent that you had to find your spot in line and desired pace ASAP, since there were not a lot of opportunities to pass or be passed, at least during the first few kilometers. Beforehand we had seen that the first half would be the toughest, with a lot of climbs, so I just focused on keeping up with the line of runners and tried to not be in anyone's way haha. It was tough indeed, and at one point there was even a rope attached to some trees to help you safely climb the mountain. Although I suspect it was mainly due to the wet weather... it would not have been too hard if dry.
Around 3 kilometers in the rain picked back up and started pouring down, but to be honest, it was not bad at all. The air was cool, and the rain helped keep me feeling (more or less) fresh. If it would have been sunny and 28 degrees, as it has been during the past week, it would have been torture!
At 3,6k there was a water station which was perfect! After that point, on "the way back" we were four people keeping more or less the same pace and running in line. It was comfortable, but if I didn't have anyone in front of me, I might have been able to go a bit faster. I was just too tired to pass and push for it haha! And I didn't want to risk going too fast to then burn out entirely at the next climb.
The final kilometer was probably the best because it was mainly downhill hehe! It's not all fun and games though since there is a significant slip-risk when running downhill on wet terrain. I picked up the pace quite a lot at this point and finished as strong as I could! The final time was 42 minutes and 15 seconds which I'm more than satisfied with! I have never really gone for a 6k run by itself, without doing intervals or aiming for 10k+ so I don't have much to compare it to. But for being my first trail race, I'm 100% satisfied with the result.
So what are my final thoughts?
It was a lot of fun! The kilometers flew past way faster than when running on flat pavement. Even though my average pace was well above 6 min/km for the entire race, it felt like I was running faster since there was a lot of jumping over things and always focusing on where to place my feet. The entire race took so much concentration and focus that it was difficult to appreciate the beautiful surroundings.
I could feel that my ankles and knees got extremely tired, and today I can feel that my ankles are quite sore from the strain, but that is only because my body is not used to it. Nothing hurt and it was nice to run on a relatively soft surface for once!
Two things that would have made the experience even more enjoyable, I think, would be a dryer ground of course, so that it wouldn't feel as scary and risky to run at a higher pace (but keep the cool air temperature), and also knowing the route and having run it a few times before – for the same reason. I get that trail running is meant to be more "free," and you take it as it comes haha. But I'm not fit enough right now to dare to push myself at one point in a race without knowing what is to come later on.
Overall a fun experience and I would definitely do it again! This organization also hosts a 10k Fall Trail in late October that I might sign up to. Imagine running a beautiful course like this with fall colors all around! Sounds like a plan to me!