So it seems I’ve caught the skate marathon bug. As much as I loved Berlin and I intend to be back again for the skate I want to use skating as an opportunity to visit new places. The idea came about through Alex within the Easy Saturday Skate (ESS) group for Copenhagen this year. We had over twenty of us from ESS, plus others from the London skate scene.
This would be my first full marathon on speed skates so it should give me a massive advantage over my previous attempts, fastest being at Berlin 1h:47m:47s.
A sub 1h:30m would be great but not sure given how open the track is compared to Berlin. Copenhagen is the world’s leader in wind turbine production, if that’s anything to go by then headwind may end up being a major factor!
A sub 1h:40m time I really wanted as it would mean I’d jump up a skate starting block for the next time I race in Berlin.
Copenhagen was my third trip abroad with the ESS group and just as memorable as the others. A lot of us had never been to Denmark before so we were excited about experiencing some new culture.
On the day we arrived there was supposed to have been a Friday Night skate but it had been raining heavy. The showers stopped before the start of the event so a few of us went down to the rendezvous. At the start point there were still quite a few likeminded hopeful skaters. Unfortunately it was just too wet. We spoke briefly with the organisers who were a really friendly bunch. (Danish are the happiest people in the world apparently). That evening they intended to have been a special clown skate, raising money for the local children’s hospital. I don’t like clowns but the clowns there were nice Danish clowns. We were all given red noses to wear and balloons tied to us, in a sort of Mario Kart fashion.
We decided to head back and re-join the rest of our group near the hostel. Four of us chose to skate back so we could start to get a feel for the city. I really like Copenhagen. The bicycle lanes are great. We were unsure at first whether we as skaters were allowed to use the cycle lanes, but the local skaters had reassured us it was okay. As we skated nobody took a second look at us, unlike in the UK where a lot of people are ignorant and unopened to accepting anything but the norm, shouting unholy words. (I’ll leave my rant at that).
The roads were wet but we took it easy to avoid slipping up, plus allowing us extra breaking distance. We went through a cycle only pathway on one section. It took us over a bridge which was really well lit for us. On the quieter sections my friend Hazel showed us a cool skate slide move, which I believe is called the New York Slide. (I’ll always call it the Hazel Slide though!).
The next day we went on a free guided tour that was offered by the Generator Hostel. It was a good way to explore the city as I am somewhat uneducated to any Danish history. On our lunch break it was a good chance for me to practice some Danish. I’ve been learning from podcasts for the last couple of months prior to the trip. I’m not sure if I made sense but I guess in context it was pretty obvious I wanted the biggest hotdog they had on offer. We spent a few hours after the tour in the Tivoli theme park before our evening meal at this place which had dynamite as display pieces.
Again our fantastic group organiser Alex did this for us. We got a group discount, I believe for every ten people signed up you get one entry free. The discount was shared between all of us.
You need to confirm your attendance and collect your race number and electronic timer chip. (Which was a sticker you put on your helmet. Sensors on an arch picked this up every lap). Everything was very straight forward and well organised. I was less organised and misplaced my timer chip. The people there sorted out a replacement without any problems. “Mange tak!” (Thanks a lot). I said after. She was surprised but seemed to appreciate my small attempt at Danish. I found most people just simply used “tak,” in most situations.
It was a 7.1km lap.
The half marathon you had to skate three laps.
So the full marathon was six laps.
The asphalt is generally very good. A few pot holes were marked with yellow spray, other skaters signalled ahead as well at these.
It was windy on some sections but not as extreme as I was expecting. The wind was about the same as other events like Goodwood and London Inline Marathon. Guess it depends on the weather at the time.
One section of the course was a part of the motorway. It is a little strange at first as the road markings were going the opposite way to the race.
On the last section there were three roundabouts which you could go either way around to pass. These were especially slippery when wet and you had to dramatically reduce your speed to handle this.
The Half Marathon Race.
What I really like about the setup for this event is that the Half and Full marathons were separate. Our group had a mix of people going for the two options. It meant we could enjoy supporting each other’s race. Although two of the guys, Alex and Muhayman opted for both races. (Greedy for medals!).
Over the speaker they spoke Danish but I was so happy when I recognised a phrase.
‘Held og lykke!.’ (Good luck).
I was on the side for the Half Marathon, cheering them all on. The thing is sometimes they went by so fast that by the time you’ve recognised them they’ve already shot off! Our green and black jerseys made it easier to spot each other though.
It was slightly overcast for the race, with the sun popping out every now and again.
Just under two hundred people took part in the Half Marathon. Our group finished between 52 minutes and 1 hour 15 minutes.
The Full Marathon Race.
Three hundred and twenty one people took part in this race. Everyone started at the same time. We were towards the mid back so it took a bit of time to worm through the pack. The others from the ESS group were taking it easy for the race so I loss them quickly.
As we turned the first corner the rain started to descend. It wasn’t just a few drops, it was full on! So glad I had the waterproof casing for the GoPro.
I found a bunch of ‘Rolling Vikings,’ who were easy to spot in their red and black jerseys. For most of the first lap I was following their lead. On the last stretch I went to take the lead as I only see it as good sportsmanship to share the brunt of the headwind.
The roundabouts I mentioned earlier were so slippery when we reached them. It was awful as every time we hit the surface we had to stop skating just in order to brace ourselves from falling over. Having to navigate three of these obstacles every lap caused us to loose rhythm and played a massive part in reducing our overall performance.
By the time I got to the lap crossing it seemed I’d lost the Vikings. (They must have been playing a different tactic as I’m sure I saw the same guys overtake later on)…
I looked to my right after the first lap and was surprised to see all the other ESS half marathoners out there despite the heavy rain. They were in blue ponchos but cheering out to me. What good friends right?!
The cheer did give me a surge of energy. I ploughed on through and shot past skater after skater. Hiding momentarily behind pacelines or individual skaters to hop on up the position ladder. Dispite the rain and my super soggy skates I was holding a nice pace. However as I past the last paceline in sight I turned around the corner and to my dismay there was nobody else in view, only wind and rain. I held on to my position for a while but the strong paceline of about eight people eventually caught up, so I joined them at the back.
After a while at being at the back I regained my strength and was getting a bit restless. I pushed up and took over the lead again. The three of us at the front rotated frequently and this worked out well. We slowly dropped people until there were four of us. You could see the others were getting a little annoyed with the old man who just hid at the back, hitching a ride. One of the others invited him to the front, only then did he lead, albeit briefly. I guess we can forgive him for being a lot older than us, but it was still annoying.
And then there were two. It was myself and another guy who I later found out was Swedish, called Jonny. For the majority of the race it was just us two. We rotated frequently. Although he did seem to want to take the lead more as we passed the lap crossing with the crowds of people. (He’d probably say otherwise but hey this is my blog!). All the same we wouldn’t have been able to have made the same progress on our own. It’s this kind of tactical and collaborative play which I really like about the skate marathons.
On the final lap Jonny and I were beginning to feel it. That ‘old man and co,’ paceline came passed us. (Old man still hiding in the middle). We tagged on. The thing is they seem to have unleashed their extra energy reserve. It became a battle to hang on. Annoyingly the old man was getting away. (easy when you’ve been letting others do the work). “I must not let him beat me.” I kept saying to myself. A moment lapsed and he was ten feet away now, no longer was I benefiting from the group as a windshield. Jonny overtook me. Lactic acid was really hitting the legs as I passed those horrible slippery roundabouts for the last time. (Although it was starting to dry up now).
Final stretch. At this point I usually find that once time use boost button. My sprint began. Up ahead Jonny was beginning to lag. He called him on joining me for the last dash. Jonny declined by waving me on.
I could then hear this crazy screaming. This sound was my friends Floju and Chidi flapping their arms frantically as they ran along the side. I joined in with the screaming and entered full arm swing sprint mode. My net time was 1:39:58. Just sneaked under one of my targets. I am very happy considering the weather.
One thing to keep in mind with Copenhagen is that on a Sunday evening a lot of restaurants are closed. The places that were open were particularly expensive. Restaurants of the Mc variety I usually avoid but a hungry skater can’t be choosers, especially that day!
Back at the hostel we had a few drinks at the bar. We discovered there was a urinal based computer game in the gents toilet. You peed on different pressure sensors to make your snowboarder go left and right to collect the snowmen and avoid the barriers. The game was called ‘On the Piste.’
“Crazy Danes!” I thought. Only later I found out that it was actually developed by a British company!
We’d hold our bladders for that little bit longer than usual so we could compete for the leaderboard.
I was disappointed with the weather. This meant that I could not properly stretch those speed skates out after having the speed lessons with Mike Van Erp this summer. Hopefully next time I can have a good attack at this course as well as actually attend Copehagen’s Friday Night Skate.
That said I can now move up a skate group for the Berlin marathon, which is ace!
So until next time Copenhagen,
(Thanks and goodbye).
“Undskyld, hvor er toilettet?” Another phrase I found very useful.
Pronouned: ‘en skool, vor air toileet?’
"Any tips, reviews and advice are my own opinions and are not to be taken as professional view points. The information on this site is what has worked for me and is here for guidance only, but I hope you gain insight into the various activities I partake in." Jonathan Chen