A great way to spend a sunny autumn day is by running with more than a hundred others in the woods, wouldn't you agree? Not that I got to see much of my surroundings while I tried to avoid breaking my leg on the uneven, stone-littered terrain between Skellefteå and Skelleftehamn.
Kraftjoggen is a 20 km race that was organised for the first time this year. The idea is that, together with its sister races Krafttrampen (mountain bike) and Kraftloppet (Nordic skiing), it will give people the opportunity of doing a ”classic” (similar to Svensk Klassiker, for which you have to complete 4 races in 4 different sports within a year to qualify). It was a well-organised event that I'm sure I'll participate in again.
Around 150 runners gathered behind the starting line. Fifty meters later we encountered the first and worst hill of the whole race. Those who had warmed up before the race had nothing to worry about. Despite my vigorous 1 minute warm-up, I still managed to get some lactic acid dangerously close to my thigh muscles. Thankfully it was all downhill from there. Or at least flat. With some very gentle slopes to break the monotony. An easy course.
Or so I thought, until we hit the first real terrain bit. Upwards the single track went, and my steps got shorter, as my eyes worked overtime to spot all stones that threatened to cause me to twist my ankle and my brain tried to figure out the route promising the least risk for injury. I've said it before: VFF are not ideal for terrain. My KSO are not good on slippery surfaces. But I wouldn't change them for the world.
|An old photo, because I didn't take any during the race, but very similar surroundings|
I took a short walking break after 10 km, not because my knee complained but because I thought it to be the wise thing to do. It disrupted my flow, but luckily it coincided with the beginning of an easy part of the race on tarmac, so I was able to pick up some speed again soon and even run past some of the others. To think that I was worried before the race that I'd end up being last; that my knee wouldn't hold, or that my strength would betray me. Coming back from an injury that caused me to take it easy for 6 months meant that the only thing I had dared hope for was to complete the race, but here I was, running strong.
People had come out to see us run, and they were enthusiastic in their support, lifting our spirits. Before I knew it, there were only a couple of kilometres left, and my fear that I would run out of steam never came true. Instead I increased my speed a little more and passed a couple of runners. I felt great. I was running fast, by my standards, but it never felt so hard that I couldn't keep it up. I was in control. As I ran past the finish line, I raised my hands to thank the volunteers that cheered me on.
Do I dare say it? Do I dare say that I'm finally back and running longer distances?