Pauline in the Haga parkrun frame

Haga parkrun 6th July 2024

Although I have lived in Sweden for over 4 years now, and am a regular parkrunner in Gothenburg, I have done very little in the way of parkrun tourism here in Sweden. It’s harder to do this than in Scotland, where there are maybe 40 or 50 within a couple of hours drive. In Sweden, there are currently 11 parkrun events in a nation with around twice the landmass of the UK. And we don’t have a car here. My NENDY is 4 hours away by public transport, so any tourism realistically requires overnight stays. However, Michael and I finally booked a long weekend visit to see Stockholm, and I made sure I could get to a parkrun whilst we were here. There are three parkruns in Stockholm: Haga, Huddinge, and Lillsjön. With Haga being closest to the city centre and our accommodation, and being the first parkrun in Sweden (and possibly the nordics) it was the obvious choice.

Getting to Haga parkrun

We had been in Stockholm since early on Wednesday afternoon, and done a lot of walking, despite also making extensive use of the public transport and enjoying a boat trip. On both Thursday and Friday we had covered over 30,000 steps, which my feet are unused to, particularly on cobbled streets and wearing heeled boots. I had a 7-day transport pass which I could easily use to get close to Hagaparken. So, I did what any sensible person would do, and jogged there. It was quite a nice warm-up, and my phone loudly proclaiming the names of streets I needed to turn onto with an even more ludicrous pronunciation than my usual attempts at Swedish only resulted in a few odd looks from passers by. My feet, if anything, felt somewhat less sore by the time I got there.

Pauline in the Haga parkrun frame
Pauline in the Haga parkrun frame.


I arrived at around 09:00 am and introduced myself to the Run Director, Anna. A lot of the set-up had already been done and the volunteers seemed quite organized and relaxed. I had applied sunscreen and was wearing both shorts and a rain jacket (welcome to Swedish summer), but the threatened rain had not materialised so I put my jacket and water bottle on the largeish groundsheet which is set up on the grassy area to the right of the Start / Finish area for parkrunners to leave such things whilst running.

There weren’t a lot of people around at this point and I wondered if it would be quite quiet. However, I almost immediately spotted a guy wearing a Kirkcaldy Wizards top. I know one of the founders of the Wizards, so it was great to meet a member so far from home. He was visiting family in Nacka, and had scheduled it to ensure he could visit Haga parkrun.

The first-timers briefing was conducted by the Race Director, with everything explained in Swedish and then again in English. There were maybe 30 people there for the briefing, which was very clear. I appreciated it being in both languages with Swedish first, as it enabled me to assess how well I had actually understood the Swedish parts. There were 64 first timers though, so some of them didn’t arrive on time for the briefing.

First Timers Briefing
First Timers Briefing: There were 64 first timers, so clearly not all of them attending this briefing.

Runners kept arriving throughout this time, and it was clear that it would be a bigger turnout than I was expecting (for some reason I was expecting around 120 runners). Moving to the Start area for the pre-event briefing, I found Mark (the Wizard) talking to another Scottish family. Milestones, tourists and a birthday celebration were called out, then we made our way to the start. Klara, färdiga, gå – and we were off.

Haga parkrun

Strava map of the Haga parkrun route
Strava map of the Haga parkrun route

The course involves two laps in the beautiful Hagaparken in Solna, located just a couple of kilometres north of the city centre. The first couple of hundred metres sees you running ever so slightly uphill towards a set of gates, at which one of the volunteers was filming us as we passed through it into the main part of the park. The route takes you through a forest, but the path is nice and wide. Even so, I had started too far back (as usual) and followed a few other runners who were working their way up the left-hand side past some of the crowd. Around 600 metres in, I noticed that things felt more spread out, and that people were largely running at a pace I was comfortable with. My watch said I was at around 5:25 per km pace, but I know how inaccurate that is in forested areas so I wouldn’t be able to begin calculating potential finish times until the 1 km marker. I saw a kilometre marker up ahead, but it turned out to be 3 km. Whilst I wished this was the case, I knew for sure that 100 plus people hadn’t run 3 km in under 5 minutes. At least I knew where I would encounter this on the second lap.

Pauline running up the first hill, before the 1 km point
Pauline running up the first hill, before the 1 km point

After a very gentle uphill and a nice flat/ slight downhill section at the beginning, the course has another moderate hill for a couple of hundred metres before the 1 km marker. I don’t recall overtaking many people on the way up the hill, but I did go past some people on the way down the other side, including a young guy in a blue top and glasses. I remember this because he overtook me again on the second lap. My watch had buzzed 5:30 for the first kilometre, but it buzzed after the marker, so I guessed that 27 minutes was a potential finish time. However, the second kilometre was much faster, at 4:45. I take advantage of downhills. Unfortunately, so did the lady I was following, and I couldn’t catch her up. Even though she was wearing two layers, which seemed to me to be excessive given the pleasant temperatures (around 18 degrees) and the lack of a breeze in the forested section.

The guy at the front overtook me, then I went past him on a downhill, but he overtook me again in the final kilometre. The guy behind him is Richard, a visitor from Guildford whom I chatted with before and after the run.
The guy at the front overtook me, then I went past him on a downhill, but he overtook me again in the final kilometre. The guy behind him is Richard, a visitor from Guildford whom I chatted with before and after the run.

You turn onto the short top section of the loop at around 1.2 km, and it curves around, with a nice downhill, towards the opposite side. The lake – Brunnsviken – becomes visible around 1.5 km, and you run alongside it for the best part of a kilometre. It isn’t always visible through the trees, but it’s worth it to stop and take a photo if you’re not aiming for a PB. This section is mostly flat, and I kept the warmly dressed lady in sight, but she remained stubbornly 10 seconds ahead.

The turning point is, unsurprisingly, around the 2.5 km point, and is a fairly sharp turn back onto the same lap, a little way in from the gates we had run through at the start. The marshal here did a great job of directing us. I guess it was obvious from the time that we had another lap to do. If there are points where the front runners have begun lapping those nearer the back, it may get a little trickier to be continually directing different people in two different directions.

The woman in the long sleeved top was someone I followed for most of the route but could not catch up to.
The woman in the long sleeved top was someone I followed for most of the route but could not catch up to.

Having reached the turning point around 22:50, I was unsure what that meant for a potential finish time. My watch buzzed 3km at 15:45, but I had reached the 3km sign around 30 seconds before that. That 3rd kilometre had been much slower than the 2nd one though. It all depended on the downhills, and how much harder I found the uphills on the second lap. I pushed on up the hill, and managed to pass a few runners. On the downhill approaching the lake for the second time, I noticed that the woman in front (who I had given up trying to catch up to) had removed her outer layer and was wearing a top which said AFRY. She was looking very comfortable. I, on the other hand, was breathing heavily enough to have a couple of other runners look over in slight alarm as I drew alongside them. We were back into the forest away from the lake, and I tried to maintain pace by following a guy in a red top. Unfortunately the very short hill at around 4.3 km felt much tougher than it should have on the second lap, and he dropped me. The AFRY lady extended her lead, and then there was a somehow unexpected and longer hill at around 4.5 km which I had managed to erase from my memory of the first loop. My pace plummeted, as did all hope of a sub-25:00.

Photo shows two timekeepers at the finish funnel, with the token master in the background
Are the Timekeepers happy, or shocked? I think the guy may be cheering someone to the finish.

Thankfully the finish is a slight downhill. Back through the gates (no crowding at this point) and the route to the finish is clearly marked with the tiny circular things they use on sports pitches. I decided I didn’t have the energy to attempt to sprint past the man in front, but did manage a reasonable increase in pace to get over the line in 25:09. I was surprised to discover from my finish token that I had finished in 79th position. I’m used to finishing in the top 30 at Skatås, occasionally even in the top 10. However, we usually have around 50 runners, and there were 194 at Haga this morning, lots of whom had already finished, and were lounging around on the grass.

Groups of runners enjoying a post parkrun lounge on the grass.
Some runners enjoying a post-parkrun chat or sit-down.

There were plenty of people to talk to post-run. I found Richard, who was visiting from Guildford. He had finished shortly after me, and was looking forward to exploring more of the city. I also saw Mark before he headed off to a family barbeque. He promised to pass on my regards to Joanne and Jock. The Scottish family – Jane, Jim, and son Andrew, all enjoyed the parkrun, and Andrew had finished in the kind of competitive time that qualified for a token number in the 20s. It was nice to hear some news from Edinburgh. I also chatted to a couple of nice Americans who have been living here for a couple of years, and a few Haga regulars, who pointed out that my time, though not quite what I was hoping for, was a Haga PB, and I could return any time to try and beat it.

Photo shows a family, mother on the left, son in the middle and dad on the right, all smiles after parkrun
A Scottish family on vacation in Sweden, enjoying a sunny Haga parkrun.

The number of runners coming in had slowed to a trickle, even though it was not quite 10:15, and many of the runners were heading away from the park, off to enjoy the rest of their weekend. I was ushered towards a table to get some fikabröd (half a croissant, which was rather tasty) and soon an attempt was being made by one of the Scanners to fold up the Haga parkrun sign. These are rather tricky to collapse and often spring back open again. After a couple of attempts nobody else was volunteering for the task, so I stepped in, failing miserably on the first attempt. Thankfully it stayed folded, if rather messily, on the second attempt, and we got it into the bag. Having bagged a third Swedish parkrun, I headed back towards the centre of town to enjoy my remaining time in Stockholm.

Photo shows four of the regulars at Haga parkrun. They all volunteered today, with Mark also running.
Some of the regulars at Haga parkrun.



Haga parkrun was my third parkrun in Sweden, and my first outside of Gothenburg. It is set in a beautiful park, with mainly forest views and some views of a lake. The scenery is not quite as dramatic as at Skatås parkrun, but it is also less hilly. The nature of the two laps not including heading back to the start point the way the route does at Billdalsparken means that unless you are very fast or very near the back, it is unlikely that you will encounter being lapped, or getting to lap anyone. I never saw the front runners after they disappeared into the distance within 500 metres of the start. This is worth knowing if you worry about multi-lap courses for this reason. Haga parkrun attracts the most participants out of the Swedish parkruns, and in some respects felt like a UK one, with close to 200 runners. Unlike at Skatås parkrun, where you can sometimes lose sight of other runners on certain sections on a less busy day, I was always surrounded by several runners for the duration of the run. This helped to provide motivation and people to try and catch up to. However, it never felt too crowded in the way that some of the busier UK parkruns can do. There are no permanent toilet facilities, which can be a concern to those with a nervous bladder (such as myself), but the portaloos (which are there for most of the year, but not during winter) were clean, and close to the meeting area.

An army of volunteers
The volunteers who make parkrun possible.

The post-parkrun fika is taken in the tennis club in summer, but it is not open year round. I was told that there had been another cafe which unfortunately closed. In winter (November to April), fika involves a reasonable walk to get to an Espresso House at Odenplan, around 1.5km away. If you are planning to visit and fika (and/or toilet facilities) is important to you, and you’re not keen to learn how to run in snow, then maybe aim to visit in spring, summer or autumn. I’m sure it would be beautiful in snow though. The parkrun is very well organised, the volunteers are friendly, there are likely to be several other visitors, and most people speak English. So if you are planning to visit Stockholm, it is definitely worth planning your time so that you can fit this parkrun into your itinerary. And, if you live in Stockholm and haven’t visited one of the parkruns here yet, it’s time to discover the best way to start your weekend.

Photo Acknowledgements

Most of the photos taken at the Start / Finish area were taken by myself, or by another parkrunner or volunteer using my phone. The photos of people running, of the First Timer’s Briefing, and the large group photo of the day’s volunteers, were taken by parkrun volunteers and can be found on the Haga parkrun Facebook page.

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