Oslo. Bodø. Narvik. Necessary pit-stops en-route to Sweden, a land of good memories, old friends and the inaugural Sweden Sky Race 24. Bjorkliden Fjällby hosted nearly 200 runners for either one or two laps of the 57km/3000m course.

The 6pm start ensures everyone gets to experience the midnight sun – head torches superfluous here. For a place that has 300 days a year with temperatures below zero, the 25°C heat was unexpected for everyone.

First off it’s up to a mountain hut, where the traditional waffles are ignored before continuing up to a 1400m summit. The first descent is thoroughly enjoyed. Passing people, in full-on racing mode only 20km into the two-lap effort. Racing one-lap runners, this can’t be a good idea.

Near-vertical climb up from Troll lake. Stunning vista – pictures can wait till lap two. Steep technical descent follows, good fun again. Very rocky, shoe choice possibly a touch aggressive (X Talon 190s). Lake-side run then a third big, gentler, climb and 12km descent to finish. Got to ease-off, still a long way to go – must not stop after one lap. Allow some one-lappers to pass, yes that’s sensible.

Quick pit-stop at finish, dry socks and new shoes. Lap two begins with an energy low. Can’t turn back, suffering is part of the game. Keep going, slowly. Sit down, eat something, listen to music, take pictures. Move again, still oh-so-slow. A few runners pass, how easy it looks. Waiting for improvement, but nothing ever comes. Get to first summit and hope descent will be different. Nope, even worse, legs are stiff and sore. Resolve to drop-out at next aid station unless something magic happens. It doesn’t, get there 50% slower than first lap. Easy decision to quit with no simple exits after this one and not having stopped as early as I could have.

Awful race strategy, poor shoe choice, what exactly was I thinking? Nothing, apparently, except that it was good fun to compete with people doing a different race. No regrets about stopping though, and you always learn more when things don’t go so well.

Still a great and worthwhile trip, I won’t wait 9 years before visiting Sweden again. That’s two Swedish DNFs in a row now though (previous was Stockholm Marathon 2005), a streak that needs amended.

Short video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNoGkNPSabg&feature=youtu.be