This time last year I was flying out to Copenhagen to run my second marathon there, as many people will be doing today over the next few days ahead of the 38th version of the event. If you’re running it this Sunday or thinking about trying it in the years to come, I’ve put together a few things to note about the race which should help you have a happy and fun experience.
Enjoy the route
Copenhagen marathon boasts ‘a genuine city marathon’ which remains inside the city at all times. This means that it runs past a number of the sights of Copenhagen – although you’ll want to look up beforehand where they are along the route so that you can keep an eye out. To keep the route within the city, the later part of the race (km 28-42) follows the same route as the first third, with only minor deviations. Keep this in mind when planning your race strategy, as it could get you down if you’ve slowed down towards the end of the race and the roads you were flying down to start now feel like they’re taking forever.
The course has been altered since I ran it last year, so I can’t comment about the profile. It was very flat, with only one incline worth mentioning at ~19km, however with the change it appears that that particular hill is no longer included. The one other thing to note is that you will be running over cobblestones in parts, so take care not to twist your ankle mid-race.
Adapt to the day
May 21 (for 2017) puts the Copenhagen Marathon at the tail-end of the spring marathon season. I chose it last year because it meant that I had more time for training, however it can also mean that the temperatures will be hotter than you’d like. Last year we ran in 26 degrees, and despite there being plenty of water available and cold showers to run through, there were still too many people collapsed at the side of the road. I stupidly tried to ignore the heat, and ended up having an awful race which I still count as my worst to date.
It could well be hot on race-day, if the two times I’ve visited Copenhagen in May are anything to go by (on a trip there in 2013 I got sunburnt!). Pack a warm-weather kit to run in, and continuing checking the forecast over the next few days. Currently Sunday is predicted as 17degrees, but if it changes, be prepared to adapt your goals. Setting a PB is not as important as enjoying running in this beautiful city.
Be aware of the pacers
Unlike every other paced marathon I’ve run, Copenhagen has pacers running 10-minute interval times. For instance, instead of a 4:15 pacer, they have a 4:10 pacing group and a 4:20 one. This can be great if that’s the time you’re aiming for, but if you were expecting a ‘normal’ paced time it can throw you off. One of the big mistakes I made going into Copenhagen was to change my goal time the day before from 3:45 to 3:40 just so that I could run with a pacer. Even ignoring the eventual weather conditions, I hadn’t trained to run 3:40 and it was a stupid decision to make. Try not to pull a silly like I did!
There were some 6-8 people in each pacing team, who swapped out periodically around the course. It was the first time I had experienced this, and I felt very disconcerted seeing people with pacer flags standing just after the start line cheering people on. I didn’t know what was going on and thought the pacers had dropped out, or something. The switching of pacers also means that each new set will be running on fresh legs (as opposed to yours), so be aware that they may push the pace a little once they’ve jumped in. If you’re following one of the groups, don’t be put off if the pace surges, just try to keep running evenly and (hopefully) you will eventually catch up again.
Finish area goodies!
Once you’ve run 42.2 kilometres through “the city of spires” and crossed the finish line (throw your arms up and celebrate!) you will come into one of the most well-stocked finish areas I have ever experienced. As you hobble your way down the street you will be accosted by people offering you protein drinks, coke, hot chocolate, fruit, beer, everything you can imagine. Personally, I don’t recommend trying to mix them all together (as I did haha)! It can be a bit overwhelming, so take your time or just ignore the offerings. Even better, come back once you’ve collected your bag and sat down on the grass for a bit. You deserve the free beer!
Best of luck for Sunday! It’s a great, friendly marathon and you will have a blast. Enjoy the crowds (particularly the NBRO crew, similar to Run Dem in London) and savour all that Copenhagen has to offer. You’ve got this!