There were a number of facets of my run last Sunday that were unusual. It was dark, minus ten degrees and the ground was covered in packed snow with a layer of powder snow on top. Oh, and I was in Stockholm.
My brilliant host Martin had persuaded me to take my running gear and he augmented this with an extra pair of running tights, a head-torch and a set of running spikes for the bottom of my trainers.
I was particularly glad of the latter. My outside runners were covered in mud from the previous run so I had packed the pair I use on the running machine. Only when I put them on did I realise how slippery the soles were: a combination of the rubber hardening with age and the silicone lube we use on the machine.
It may have been minus ten, but it really didn’t feel that cold, which may have been due to low humidity. We ran gently along one of Martin’s training routes, through his neighbourhood, around his local lake and up into the forest. It was beautiful and I could certainly get used to this being my local run, snow and all.
All too quickly we were back at the house and I felt elated… 55 minutes had passed in a flash! I’ve no idea how far we ran, but we were chatting constantly so probably about 5 miles.
After work the following evening, Martin decided I should experience more of the local way of life. We headed to a local recreation centre and I once again changed into my running gear… this time swapping the slippery-soled runners for a pair of long Swedish ice skates.
The last time I can easily remember being on ice skates was around 1995. Whilst standing nonchalantly with my hands in my pockets I had slipped over and fractured a rib! Not wishing to worry Martin, I withheld this information!
Not expecting to go far, we set off along the track… across the surface of the lake. You might think this sounds crazy, but the track would have been maintained by a tractor, so the ice is pretty thick. Having driven on frozen lakes in the past it wasn’t the thing that was concerning me… I just didn’t want to make an idiot of myself by falling over!
Fortunately some basic elements of the technique (none of them glamorous, alas) came back to me and we completed the lake circuit… a whole 3km!
That was the hors d’oeuvre. We changed, showered and climbed into the the typically Swedish sauna… it was a mixed session and everyone was naked, though clearly no-one seemed to give a hoot.
Having been thoroughly heated, Martin led me outside, across the snow and down to a small jetty on the lake… still naked, of course. Here there were a pair of stainless steel handrails and between them the treads of a ladder descending into the black water.
The water on the handrails was frozen, as was the surface of the jetty and only a submerged fan prevented the surface of the water freezing over like the rest of the lake that we had been skating on.
I thought a little trepidation was probably in order, but I didn’t want to show myself up as a weak-minded Brit so I grasped the icy handrails and started to step down until only my head and hands remained in the air.
It’s possible that my mind has blanked out the experience, but it didn’t seem that bad… probably because I had been recently super-heated . I counted to five before I retraced my steps out of the water and then walked back across the snow. We even sat outside for a few minutes chatting before returning to the sauna… with our feet lifted off the frozen ground!
Probably determined to get a girlie squeal out of me, my wonderful host then repeated the exercise… this time with a camera to capture the moment. Two photos were taken though, despite the effects of the cold water, only one is publishable!
Worried about my place in the Brit-dip-list and also strangely enjoying this new experience, I returned for a third time to lower myself into the icy water. I actually can recommend it… highly!
We showered & changed & headed out for food and a celebratory glass of beer!
I now understand why Stockholm Syndrome is so named… despite the generally chilly winter temperature, snowy weather and extended hours of darkness, it’s a beautiful and fun place populated by really warm-hearted people. I can’t wait to return!