Will Renwick is out on the west coast of Sweden taking part in a quirky island trail running event. Here’s his report from the first day of the race
The walkers set off an hour before us runners. I couldn’t help thinking I should’ve signed up to go with them instead. I watched as they strolled off down the trail with smiling faces and crammed daypacks that betrayed the fact they were going to picnic and picnic in style. I’m left behind with the neon crowd who are making their race preparations – watches beeping, muscles being stretched, energy gels poured down. It looks like there are some serious runners here.
It’s Day One of the Icebug, a walk or run of 75km over three days. This is the third time the event has been held and it’s grown every year. Last year there were around 200 taking part, this time there are 450. It’s based in Ramsvik on the west coast of Sweden, with the trail leading entrants around a stunning archipelago of granite islands.
Icebug, the host, is a Swedish brand that makes trail shoes, ultra-grippy trail shoes they shoes. This location and route has been picked to show this grip in full flow.
So we’re off and the professionals quickly present themselves, breaking off in an instant. And It turns out there are plenty of people who are taking it easy as well; here to just have a bit of fun with friends. This is my first off-road race (since school cross country) so I play things cautiously and try to work out what a comfortable pace is for myself, there’s 30km ahead. Within 15 minutes I’m alone, the front runners of perhaps about 40 people are gone and everyone else is out of sight behind me.
I settle for my state of limbo and relax a bit, able now to take in the terrain and assess the Icebug Mist shoes I had rather recklessly only pulled on for the first time this morning. I soon notice how good the grip is though – it really lives up to Icebug’s claim. It’s raining, and the path seems to be almost entirely on hard, wet granite but they don’t slip at all. It’s actually quite remarkable how dependable they feel.
After the first food and drink station, with confidence in my shoes and fuel in the tank I pick up the pace a bit. Soon I’m catching up with other runners. Occasionally one will say something enthusiastically in Swedish as I pass, which I like to think is: “nice going, keep it up” but it could of course be very different. We’re then passing the walkers with each one cheering on the runners as we go by.
More granite boulders, a few stretches through woodland and some fun boggy bits and then eventually we are winding through the red sheds of a fishing village towards the finish of Day One where there’s hot chilli and beer waiting for us all. The weather hasn’t been good, but the route has been excellent. Bring on tomorrow.