Axa Mountain MarathonBy Line Kolbe I had a wonderful weekend but the marathon, Axa Fjällmaraton, didn't go as planned at all. We, Thomas had taken some days off from his work to come with me, had a long way to drive to get up to the Swedish mountains, about 1000 km, so we drove up on two days and got to the start place the evening before. The race was made so you could choose your own start time and could start between 7 and 9 o'clock. This race is called "Öppet Fjäll" (Open Mountain) because you have that two hour span where you can start. This is great when it's the first time you run it, or if you want to give yourself more time to be able to complete it. At midway they pull a rope across the path at a specific time and if you haven't gotten past that rope at that time you aren't allowed to continue from there, and then it's a good thing that you can start the race very early. It's also for those who like that we don't all run in one pack and want the field of runners spread out more. There's an official marathon a week after the open mountain one and they have a start time and it's more a real race. The official one and this one have the exact same route, the same water/food stations, the same dinner afterwards with the winners on stage and prices and pictures and a film about the day. It's 43 km and 1800 height meters through the Swedish mountains and it's beautiful! Two large mountains to pass plus a little mountain side up and down again between the two mountains. I chose to start early and was out of bed already at 6 o'clock. I was at the starting line at 7 and on my way just minutes past 7. Off I go, I'm the second one there: I felt perfect. Had a lot of energy and nothing hurt. The last weeks I'd rested a lot because I still had some soreness in my left ankle that bothered me, but the rest had been good for me. My shape was also great. Felt like I could really do this. After a short time I got the start of the first mountain and the route went up and up and up for the next 10 km. I can't express how much I love the nature in this part of the world. It was so amazing. I loved every step I took. I still felt really great. I walked where it was the steepest but I also ran a lot and still felt like I could just go on. My training runs paid off now. I got passed by some who'd started after me. I also at times just stopped and watched the view. Took it all in. Took some pictures: My whole body felt great all the way up that mountain and then I was almost at the top. I looked at my clock and saw that I was doing good. Thomas was waiting for me at the water/food station on the other side of this mountain and we'd guessed that it would take me about 2 hours to pass it, and that should still be realistic. I was so incredibly happy. Everything seemed to go my way. The route was very easy to follow and marked with both plastic strips and these cool signs along the way: At the top of the mountain there was a check point you had to pass and then it went downhill the next 6 km towards the food/water station. The first part downhill went fine and it almost felt like resting. My body had gone into this stage where it was just set on uphill and then when it went down my heart rate fell and it was so easy to run. My legs still felt good. Then this came: A very very steep downhill. I almost had to climb parts of it and it really put stress on my knees. My right knee started to ache. The same feeling I'd had at the hill run I did about 7 weeks ago and also on the forrest half marathon I did in Denmark. I thought to myself, Oh no.. not again, not this early. I was very careful but the knee still ached. I had expected it to come at the end of this marathon, but not at all this early. I started to walk to make it go away. The path evened out and wasn't that steep so I started to run again. It was fine for a while though I could still feel it and hoped it would just go away again. I ran slowly and carefully but after some time the ache became a real pain and I had to walk a lot. I was passed by many runners. A lot was so nice to ask if I was ok and a lot cheered on me and everyone was so sweet. I felt so sad. The pain got worse and worse. I walked. Tried to run two-three steps, had to stop and walk again, tried running again, couldn't.. I started to wonder if I should use my first aid and make a bandage on my knee, but thought to myself that it would be better to just get to the water/food station where Thomas would be and then get a better bandage there. I still hoped it would get better and bearable so I could continue. When I finally got there I was so sad. The ones who where at the water/food station were very sweet. They got me a bandage on my knee, I tried to run a bit with it and I thought it could maybe work, and I had some bananas and some water. The time down the mountain had taken me a lot more time than up the mountain had. Thomas had gotten worried and when he saw how I was walking he understood. I left that water/food station with the intension of continuing but at the same time my knee hurt so incredibly much. I actually tried to run 3 more times but had to stop. I was devastated. To complete this marathon had been my dream for a whole year. I wasn't even tired in my body yet. My ankles and feet felt great. Everything except that knee was perfect. I got into our car and just cried. Thomas drove me back to the water/food station and I dropped out of the run, returned the time chip and was registered as a non finisher. I completed 16 km, 6 of them with pain, and passed the first mountain. After some time of getting over it we drove to the second water/food station just to see how it looked there, have some of the food and talk with the ones there. Thomas took this one of me talking to one of the runners: This guy told me that he'd dropped out last year for the same reason, runner's knee, and that I'd be back next year. That was so nice of him to say that. Made me feel a lot better. And then after we'd spend some time there we went to the finish area and saw the runners come to the finish. I had my knee looked at and got a massage, I was again told that it's runner's knee and what I now have to do to rehab. We relaxed and waited for the dinner in the evening. That dinner was amazing and the company was too. We got to know some very nice people. We had one more night up there before heading the long way home again the day after. On the way down we drove from morning to evening and drove all the way in one day. One of the guys we got to know at the dinner drove with us on our way home. He had taken the train up and needed a ride home so we helped him. Now a week after the run my knee still aches when I go down stairs but otherwise it's fine. That's pretty normal for runner's knee. I'm still disappointed that I couldn't complete the marathon but I'm happy I know what to do about my knee and I know that next year I'll be able to complete it. And one more great thing: Thomas now wants to get in shape and do it together with me next year. Now I can't wait to start my rehab for my knee and get back again.