Group photo before the start of the race

Vårruset Gothenburg 10km – Tuesday 28th May 2024

This was my first 10km race in Sweden, and my second official, non-virtual race here, and in a lot of respects it mirrored the first official race I ever took part in – the Glasgow Women’s 10km race in 2005. Much like my first race, this was a women-only race, and was a 10km event. Vårruset though also has a 5km timed option, plus 2.5km and 5km “fun run” (non-timed) options. Similarly to my first race, I was talked into doing this by a colleague not that long before the entry deadline, and didn’t really train for it. I had done around one week of a half marathon training programme before going on vacation mid-April, then hadn’t done much running at all until a couple of weeks before the event. Our department signed up not one but two teams of 5 women for this, and our entries were paid for by our employer, which was fantastic. We didn’t arrange for matching t-shirts though. Initially 3 of us were going to do the 10km, but in the end only 7 of us actually ran (due to a combination of illness, and aversion to the heavy rain earlier in the afternoon) and I was the only one who did the 10km run.

Pre-Race Organisation

After meeting up, we took a few photos then made our way to the Start/ Finish area in Slottskogen – a beautiful large park a little southwest of the city centre. As the 2.5km event was supposed to begin one hour after the 10km race, at 7:00pm, I left my bag with Natasha and Ella, assuming that I would return in time to collect it, and to look after their belongings. We picked a tree to meet under, which I was a little dubious about as trees all look pretty similar to me, but the event area was small enough that I was confident I would find them. Miriam, who was running the 5km with Birgit, came over to the Start area with me, took a couple of photos of me for this blog, told me to move closer to the front (I ended up standing about the halfway point of the participants) and managed not to laugh as I tried to follow the group warm-up with all the coordination and grace of a puppet tangled in its own strings. I managed not to (accidentally) hit the woman standing on my right-hand side, but it was a close call.


Pauline in the Start area,
Pauline in the Start area. The camera angle makes it look like she is a giant compared to the woman waving behind her.

The Race

We did the countdown from 10, then the race started and we were off. I quickly realized that Miriam had been correct: I’d started too far back. After around 10 seconds I joined a few other women who were heading up onto the pavement to overtake some of the slower runners. I didn’t want to go too fast though, as my recent attempts at 10km suggested I could expect a time of between 54 – 55 minutes, depressingly similar to the 54:42 I achieved in that first timed 10km race back in 2005 when I wasn’t even a runner.

The start of the race takes you up the broad, tarmac road that is Slottskogspromenaden, but at the first junction one of the many marshals directed us onto a narrow trail path which was necessary to enable a turning point close to the Linnéplatsen entrance to the park. It was harder to move past people on this section, but I was already at my “realistic target” pace of around 5:25/ km, so only slipped past a few people when clear opportunities arose. After a few hundred metres of this, we reached the end of the trail and were directed back onto Slottskogspromenaden heading in the opposite direction. There were a few spectators here cheering us (including the people from Centerpartiet who were there canvassing for votes, something I don’t recall happening at any Scottish sporting events) and we were back on a nice, wide path, with the mini golf course on the left-hand side. There were women running in t-shirts with various logos on them. Two women with #lifeinlime t-shirts (from Lime Technologies) were running together and seemed to be going at a reasonable pace. One was also very tall, so I decided they would be good to follow. I managed this along the wide and gentle downhill path, and for some reason decided to overtake them when we headed off to the left past the tram stop before heading uphill out of Slottskogen for a short while. This was just into the second kilometre, and the path out is a moderate and reasonably sustained uphill. They went past me before we reached the band, at around 3 kilometres. I think it was a brass band. One time when I ran past there was some drumming, and the other time there was some melody, but I didn’t recognize what they were playing. It was nice to have the distraction from the discomfort of the recent climb, and the steeper one just past where they were when we turned another corner to head back into the park.

Vårruset Strava Map
The Vårruset route on Strava.

The first kilometre had buzzed in at 5:25, so pretty much my expected pace of around 54 – 54:30. The Lime Technologies ladies had been discussing what time they would do, to within a minute either way, but I only heard the second part of that (about the 1 minute either way) and not their expected actual time. I was hoping it was something like 52 minutes, but could have been 55. Either way, they were running faster than that, and the second kilometre buzzed in at 5:06. That climb out of Slottskogen had made me realise how weak I still am on hills though, and the third kilometre buzzed in at 5:24. The next climb was shorter but steeper, up onto a road which had been reduced to one lane for cars for the duration of the race, and my pace for the fourth kilometre was a disappointing 5:53. I started doing mental arithmetic and was concerned I might struggle to get 54-something. The #lifeinlime duo had increased their lead on that uphill, and a few ladies I had overtaken earlier also went past me on the hill.

Heading back into the park involved a further uphill, but also some more spectators cheering, which is always a nice boost. And after all that climbing, there was a wonderful downhill section where I managed to overtake a few women and get close to catching a few others. There were also different signs for 5km runners and 10km runners. If I’d been doing the 5km race, the end would be nearly in sight. Unfortunately we were directed to the right, and had the same loop to repeat again.

My watch buzzed 5km at 27:08, and I got confused, thinking that meant I was only on pace for 56 minutes. My mental arithmetic gets more prone to errors when I am struggling with the pace, and I quickly realized my error. Also, my watch was not buzzing at the kilometre markers, but further on. I assumed this was due to the trees affecting GPS coverage, but couldn’t be sure how much it was underestimating the distance. On the second lap there were no markers for kilometres 6 to 10, and the turning point and finish meant it couldn’t be assumed that 2 = 7, 3 = 8 and so on, so I just guessed that they were slightly too short for that to apply, and hoped for the best.

Team(s) IDSE
Go Team(s) IDSE

Running up those hills a second time was physically challenging, but even more so mentally. I’d also been attempting to increase my stride length to little noticeable effect, and decided that I needed to get back to regular strength training to fix these issues, in addition to doing more hill sprint training. Whether or not I will actually do any of this remains in question, but at that point in the run it seemed important.

I had ran alongside a woman for a short while, then moved past her, only for her to overtake me on the hill. She kindly expressed some words of encouragement as she went past me (kom igen, du är stark, type of thing) but it didn’t make my legs any less leaden. On that second steep hill, around 8 kilometres, several women (at least 4, possibly 5) not only overtook me but sprinted past as if it were the easiest thing in the world. Meanwhile, I was struggling up the hill with all the speed of a snail on vacation. The marshal at the top of the hill saw the look of absolute defeat on my face and offered further encouragement, as did the other marshals slightly further along the road. They were women I hadn’t recognized from the first lap, so I must really be slowing down. How could they have so much energy at this point in the race? I could still see the #lifeinlime duo not too far ahead though, and there were a smattering of spectators in the park cheering us on. Another woman sprinted past at high speed as we were being directed to the left back to the final (if I remembered correctly) uphill, and I was confused once more. Had these women started the race late and spent the first several kilometres catching up with the main group? Had they just saved their energy for the second lap?

In spite of feeling tired and as if I was slowing down, I reached 9km (according to my watch) at a little under 47 minutes. Assuming the GPS inconsistencies meant that it was still underestimating the distance, I should be able to hold a sub 6km pace and finish in under 53 minutes.

Suddenly, there were distance markers again, indicating the number of metres to go, and it was less than I expected. We were directed to the right towards the grass path to the finish, and Linnea overtook me. This confused me, as she is someone I know from Solvikingarna running club, and she is consistently faster than me. I shouted “Go Linnea!” and she turned to see who it was, presumably didn’t recognize me (I stopped going to running club shortly after starting working full time, largely due to not being able to get there for 6:00pm on Thursday evenings due to teaching commitments) responded, then sprinted off again. I finally realized that these faster runners might be doing the 5km race. Sure enough, when I searched the results, I found that she had completed the 5km race in under 22 minutes. This revelation made me feel slightly better about all those women sprinting past on the hills, but I still need to work on hill repeats. Round to the left, and the finish line was now in sight, but over grass. I did a bit of a sprint but not much. My watch said I might sneak under 52 minutes, but I wasn’t sure if I had started it exactly when I crossed the line, and if the time would be counted from when I crossed the line, or when the race started. Luckily it was the former (it was chip timed) and my finish time was 51:54.

Photo of all the things I was given after the race, except for the things I ate before taking the photo.
Photo of all the things I was given after the race, except for the things I ate before taking the photo. And the medal. I didn’t eat that.

Immediately upon slowing down, I was handed various things – a medal, then a few steps later a tote bag full of things, then a bottle of water, then an apple. It was a pretty good haul. I felt light-headed for around 15 seconds, and didn’t feel as if I had pushed hard enough to justify that feeling. I started eating the apple and began to feel better. I was however feeling rather ambivalent about my finish time. Whilst it was almost three minutes faster than that of my first (untrained) 10km race 19 years previously, it was over 8 minutes slower than my PB of 43:30. I had been preparing myself for a 55-minute run, so sub-52 should have felt good. Really though, I wanted sub-50, and I am stubborn enough to think that, with enough training and grim determination, that is still achievable for me. I guess I will have to sign up for a flatter 10km race, and actually follow a 10-week training plan for it, in order to find out.

I went off to search for Natasha and Ella, but they were not anywhere to be seen. More worryingly, the Start funnel was completely deserted. Had they set off early? (Yes, and they’d had to take my bag with them, along with their own bags which I had intended to look after.) Hanna and her friend had also left, and I walked around the area four times without finding any of my team. I was rather cold by this point, and my phone was in my bag. I decided the only option was to go to the finish and hopefully spot my teammates as they appeared, without becoming hypothermic before that happened.

Slottskogen on a different day.
A photo of Slottskogen taken during a training run on a similarly overcast day.

Luckily Miriam found me at this point. I had assumed she would have started running at around 6:45pm, and therefore not been finished until around 7:20 (she was recovering from a foot injury and wasn’t going to push it), but here she was at 7:10. It turned out that they had started the 5km and 2.5km races early. Whilst that was efficient, I don’t think it was a great thing to do for people who were participating for the first time, and, like us, might have had plans that involved people turning up on time for their expected start time, or looking after other people’s things based on the same reasoning. Miriam kindly loaned me her sweater to warm up a little, and, with Birgit we quickly also found Hina and Amna. It took a bit longer to find Natasha and Ella. Natasha had walked the entire 2.5km route wearing two backpacks (hers plus mine) and Ella had stayed with her. They also got lost at one point as the marshals were leaving the course before they reached them, due to them having tried to wait for me. Amna and Hina went to collect our picnics (another team bonus) and we settled down under a tree to tuck into a collection of flatbreads, cottage cheese, mozzarella, and crisps. Unfortunately this was foreshortened due to the forecasted heavy rain suddenly materializing. Everything was quickly packed up and we ran for the tram stop.

The food from the picnic
The food from the picnic. We had to eat it in work the next day due to the rain stopping the picnic after the race.

Final Thoughts

Vårruset happens in various locations around Sweden, and this was the 35th year for the event. It is a great initiative, is not overly focused on competition (the 5km and 2.5km untimed events had more entrants than the 10km and 5km timed races), and encourages women to get into running and fitness. The route is pleasant (if a little hillier than I would like) and it has a nice atmosphere. There were only 351 entrants for the 10km event (of which, I finished in 66th position) and around 900 for the 5km timed event. I don’t know how many there were for the two untimed options, but I suspect the whole event attracted 2 – 3,000 runners, making it a goldilocks sized event. Whilst getting overtaken by 5km runners towards the end of the second lap was a little depressing, mingling the two groups a little stopped it thinning out too much and probably helped me to maintain my pace towards the end when feeling tired. If you are female, based in Gothenburg, and have any interest in running or jogging, I would recommend signing up for it one year. Just remember to be there for the start of the first race, or you may miss your event.





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