Recently, I ran back-to-back half-marathons in Scandinavia. During this “touch of Scandinavia” race weekend I completed two races in two countries – one in Oslo one day, and one in Copenhagen the next day – thus conquering two more destinations in my quest run the world. As I explained in the Oslo Marathon recap, I had long been signed up for the Copenhagen Half Marathon (CPH) when I learned that the Oslo Marathon was the same weekend. Since Norway was unchartered territory in terms of running, and since I was already going to be in the “neighborhood”, I decided to run the Oslo Marathon as well.
The start time for the Oslo Marathon was Saturday afternoon, so Saturday morning I took a round-trip flight to Oslo from Copenhagen on Norwegian Air. I then flew back to Copenhagen on the first flight Sunday morning in plenty of time to make the start time for the CPH. There were a few snags along the way, but in the end, victory.
Part 2 of my “touch of Scandinavia” run weekend, is my recap of the Copenhagen Half Marathon (CPH Half), and as with the Oslo Marathon recap, I’ll give you “the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Good: One of the things I liked the best was the overall feeling of camaraderie that you often feel with races, a feeling the Danes might call hygge – a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. Since running is mostly a solitary pursuit, at least for me, when I participate in a race and get the warm fuzzies, it’s all good. And because I like social media, I was pretty happy with the organization’s use of it for this event. As with Oslo, there was lots of engagement leading up to the race using email and SMS messaging. CPH even had an app, taking communication and engagement up a notch.
The Ugly: I’m using a bit of creative license here, and doing the ugly before the bad (there is a method to my madness, so stay with me), and the ugly was THE WEATHER. I know I said in Part 1 that I shouldn’t reference the weather since it’s beyond anyone’s control, but in this case, I have to talk about the weather, so again, stay with me.
The weather was nice the day of the race. In the beginning.
The sun was out, and it was quite warm. For a minute there I thought I might have dressed too warmly. I wasn’t complaining, though, because a few days prior, when I went to the race expo to pick up my race packet, it was raining the proverbial cats and dogs, and the weather forecast was iffy.
I wore arm sleeves and found myself rolling them down just minutes after starting because it was so warm. However, it wasn’t long before the sun disappeared behind the clouds, and the sky began to turn grey. By the time I reached the 5km mark, it was getting cool and I begin thinking about rolling up my arm sleeves.
When I got to km 8 the rain started. First light drops. Then heavier and faster, and then hail the size of golf balls started pummeling us. Next came the thunder and a couple of flashes of lightning, the sighting of which caused several of us runners to duck under the awning of a restaurant just on the side of the road. I figured the race would be canceled, because… LIGHTNING. But when I didn’t hear about a cancellation and saw runners still braving the elements and continuing to run, I left the shelter and continued as well. By the time I reached the 12km mark, there was no more rain, and around 13 km or so, the sun peaked out. That’s good, right?
The Bad: I had just passed 15km, the sun was back out and I was beginning to dry off, I was approaching a landmark that I’d fallen in love with during my sightseeing earlier during this trip, and my overall mood was improving. That is until the race official announces the race is CANCELED.
Huh?!?! You cancel the race NOW?! After the rain and hail and thunder and lightning have stopped and the sun is out?!?!
What I didn’t know at the time was that although the crazy weather had stopped for the moment, three people – a runner, a race volunteer, and a photographer – were struck by lightning and were taken to the hospital for treatment. Rather than risk more injuries or chaos, the race organizers decided to halt the race after meteorologists forecasted further downpours.
The official proceeds to tell us we have to get back to the start/finish/bag pick up area on our own.
After I got over my “are you for real?” moment, I’ll admit to having mixed feelings about the cancelation. My left hamstring was aching – its way of expressing its dissatisfaction with me for running two races back to back, without proper training, rest or recovery – so physically, that relief would have been nice. However, I soon came to my senses and realized that not only am I working on a goal but the amount of running around done so far that weekend to be at this race and Oslo the day before to not finish the CPH Half would have been upsetting.
Hmmm. Ok. So there I am at the 15km point. I’m more than 2/3 done with the race, I’ve been through the worst of it, and I’ve still got to get to the end point on my own? Might as well keep going. Several other runners thought the same. So we kept on course. Several more officials waved us down to inform us that the race was canceled.
I was not leaving Copenhagen without my medal and without adding country #29 to my tally.
Disregarding the race officials, and my hamstring, I kept going. I soon/eventually/finally made it to the finish line. The digital timer was turned off, but there were still plenty of runners crossing the line, and race personnel on the other side to drape the finisher’s medal around our neck.
Final Assessment: Rain, hail, thunder and lightning notwithstanding, CPH Half was a good race. Copenhagen is a great destination. The city, which has set the standard for urban sustainability and green living, is surrounded by water and parks and has thousands of miles of paths and roads dedicated to cyclists. Copenhagen is also becoming known as a foodie haven and has a well-established beer culture.
The overall organization was good, as was communication and bonus points to the CPH Half organizers for their handling of the situation the day of the race. But let me just add, had this happened in Oslo, I might feel differently with Thor being the Norse god of thunder and all. All jokes aside, I would happily recommend this race.
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