A Challenging Mountain Marathon in Sweden

1000 nervous runners line up at the start of the mountain marathon in Vålådalen, the tension in the air is so thick you could cut it with a knife. Standing ready, the start goes off with a bang that echoes in the valley. Like a colourful snake, runners set off on the marathon, up the first of the 3 summits. The early morning air is fresh and crisp, the morning mist drifts in over the lakes and hangs thick in the pine forests, runners feet parrying their way over the dew soaked moss and gnarled pine roots. This is a mountain marathon, essentially a marathon, but with the challenge of traversing a mountain range. The motto is just keep calm and place one foot in front of the other.

Terränglöpning, Södra Årefjällen | Foto: Niclas Vestefjell

A Magnificent Mountain Marathon

The mountain marathon takes place the first week of August and is part of a week-long running festival. The week has a range of events varying in degree and character that builds itself up to the actual Fjällmaraton – the mountain marathon. The race is 43 km long and climbs over 2100 metres in elevation over three distinct peaks and coming to a close at the finish line at a nearby ski resort.

The jangling nerves one has at the start normally wears itself off after a few kilometres from the start. It’s an experience like no other, especially for runners who are not used to trail running in the Swedish mountains. The entire body works more than it would if you ran on asphalt, you don’t just find a rhythm and let your legs “tick over”. The uneven terrain means that you need to pick your feet up higher to prevent stumbling over rocks or roots and your shoulders and arms work more to keep you balanced. But much like any marathon, hours and miles of training are needed, regardless of where you want to place in the field. Apart from the fore runners who form a lead group, a larger group of the runners are social runners, people who are just glad to be out and competing against themselves, with the odd joke and laugh keeping the atmosphere light and jovial. As you near the first peak initial signs of fatigue start showing, heads start dropping and feet start dragging. It’s a perfectly timed psychological lift as runners pass by a group of local supporters who warmly applaud and cheer the athletes on.

The refreshment station after the first peak serves an assortment of homemade goods, sweets and salty items that provide much needed energy. One peak down, with the second peak, Hållfjället, looming into view. Heading into the low-lying marsh provides some kind of a break as tired feet sink into the softer terrain and cool down.

Somewhere along the trail is a table serving espressos, a welcome caffeine kick that revitalizes you both mentally and physically and gets you over peak number two.

Around this point every runner has a mud line that reaches up to the knees, anything other than that is a sign that you are not running hard enough..!

AXA Fjällmaraton | Foto: Johan Marklund

The final climb of the mountain marathon

The final climb of the day, up peak number three is a long and arduous climb. It´s also the most rewarding in terms of panoramic views during this mountain marathon . It’s hard to describe but the scenery lifts the runners and gives them the much needed boost to get over the final peak. The last slog is to grind your way over the finish line at Trillevallen, having accomplished 43 kilometres, 2100 meters elevation and summited three different peaks. Tension is replaced with euphoria and tired runners gingerly walk around with constant smiles on their faces, exchanging stories and their own unique experiences of a splendid mountain marathon.

AXA Fjällmaraton 2016

Daily programme of the mountain marathon week

The mountain marathon week has something for everyone in the family, regardless of age or level of fitness and ability. A runners high available for everyone.  

  • The week starts with the “Open course”, the same trail as the full mountain marathon, but without the pressure of a set start and cut off time. Runners choose themselves when to start and can test the trail at their own pace. A shorter format (27km) is available for those who wish.
  • Day two offers children a chance to don a race number and participate in an 800m and 1500m long race, a race where everyone is a winner.
  • Racing opportunities with the Åre Vertical Challenge, a challenging lung busting race from the town square vertically up Åreskutans top at 1425 metres.
  • Wednesday has a challenging trail race that covers 5km and over rocky terrain with no marked paths, based at Trillevallen.
  • Thursday is Sprint day, with elite skiers and runners lining up toe to toe in heats and later finals over a muddy course. If that doesn’t grab your fancy just standing on the side-lines and watching is entertaining enough
  • The week comes to a close with the main event, the actual mountain marathon, the 43 km marathon traversing three peaks, start in Vålådalen and finish in Trillevallen.
  • Apart from sweat, mud and race bibs, the week also offers lectures, cultural events, exhibitions and activities such as paddling and orienteering for everyone to get involved in.

Tips!

The mountain marathon course is laid out, well-marked and open all season for runners or hikers who wish to run the course in more quite circumstances than during the festival week in August. The Southern Åre mountain range is a great area for running in general with a vast array of trails, paths and distances to choose from. Maps and further descriptions can be found at aretrails.com.

Terränglöpning, Södra Årefjällen | Foto: Niclas Vestefjell
Southern Åre mountain range offers fantastic trail running | Photo: Niclas Vestefjell

HERE’S THE SKINNY

ACTIVITY

Trail Running

SEASON

Spring, Summer, Autumn

SKILL LEVEL

Easy-Hard

DISTANCE

Everything from 5-43 kilometre

START

Vålådalen, Trillevallen or Edsåsdalen. Free parking.

MAP

Åre Trails – new trail
Åre Trails – old trail
Åre Trails – 12 km
Åre Trails – 27 km
Z7 Åre-Vålådalen-Bydalen

TERRAIN

Trails (Uneven), Walkways, gravel roads, fields and marshes.

DON’T MISS

Åre Mountain Festival runs concurrently and is suitable for the whole family. Activity such as white water rafting, climbing, hiking, paddling, kayaking and yoga are on offer.

ARE WE MISSING SOMETHING?

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Löpning i solnedgång, Södra Årefjällen | Foto: Niclas Vestefjell
Running into the sunset | Photo: Niclas Vestefjell