I got the free bus in to the start and got there about an hour in advance. The wind was chilly so I kept my jacket on as long as possible. When I finally had to leave my belongings at the baggage area, I went indoors to the sport expo to keep warm. I wasn't the only one who had thought of that.
Then it was time to get to my group. A big banner marked the front of the group, and people queued anxiously behind it, trying to get a good place. If anything, it was warmer in there than in the expo. I couldn't help but think of emperor penguins that huddle together during the harsh antartic winters to keep warm. We applauded the first runner to complete the race as we waited. It took him just over an hour. Ponder that.
If a starting gun went off, I didn't hear it. But I didn't have to. The group started moving slowly forward, and finally we were off. It was nice to start with a slope and enter the park bit feeling strong. But after a kilometre, something happened. It started as an annoyance on the inside of my left knee, then developed to pain, then crescendoed with SHIT THIS HURTS SO BAD I'LL HAVE TO DROP OUT. I tried running in a different way, lifting my knees more. No improvement. I looked at the people cheering us on all around. I had to stop. I couldn't stop. One kilometre into the race and I'm already stopping? That would be too embarrassing.
A hill appeared before me, and I switched to uphill running mode. When I reached the top, my knee pain disappeared. Just like that. I ran up a steep hill at an even pace. The public was amazing. We were offered cocktails, beer, buns, and most importantly, support. Some people were screaming so loudly I thought I'd go deaf. Most signs were in support of family members or friends, but I did catch a glimpse of the familiar ”Run like an angry Kenyan” sign. Bands were stationed along the route, so we were never without music or cheering. A funny comment by the singer in one band made me smile and run juuuust a little bit faster: ”Are you the last ones?”
The runners were like a snake that crawled its way through the whole city. Some had to walk. One had collapsed. I saw a girl running in the same kind of "skort" I was wearing: ”I like your skirt”, I joked. ”Thanks, I like yours too”, she answered and smiled back. People of all shapes and sizes were out running on this beautiful day. Everyone was running on their own terms.
I realised early on that it would be tough to achieve my goal of running the race in under 2 hours. It was too crowded and in the end my Garmin registered an extra 200 metres because of all the zigzagging. I was in good form and felt great, but it wasn't going to get me anywhere if there was a wall of runners before me. I didn't mind, I was having fun. The dreaded hill on the central avenue of Gothenburg was easier than I thought, so I just enjoyed the benefits of a low pulse on my way back down it and let my legs run faster than I had done up to that point.
There was a last surprise left for me, though. The last 2 kilometres offered some hills that I hadn't prepared for mentally, and I started feeling the effects of just having run 19 km. I was, however, able to spurt to the finish. It was probably the first time I've completed a race without feeling relief that it's over.
I picked up my medal and my belongings and met up with some of the runners in the group for a beer. I met an Irish girl there who hadn't run Göteborgsvarvet, but who was there as a volunteer. On the bus home later, a woman asked me how it had gone. She had stood and cheered for hours, because she thought it was fun. I was thankful that these two, and other people like them, were there to turn this event into a huge party.
Finishing time: 2:00:33.