A Sheep in Wolves Clothing: Copenhagen Marathon 2024

Race Date: Sunday 5th April 2024

Sixty Five, Seventy Five, Forty Five..

That’s the average mileage I’ve managed for my past three road marathon blocks. For a distance that demands to be respected, I was doomed before even toeing the line. To preface, this isn’t a report about a successful race.

Copenhagen is a rapidly growing marathon, with 2024 being the first sell-out year for the event. Fortunately, much has changed since the early iterations in the 80s, where runners could be seen weaving through live traffic, or waiting for the bridge at Langebro to be lowered before continuing. These days the entire operation is incredibly slick.

Runners navigating Volkswagens & Ladas in the early 80’s

I threw my name in for the elite Copenhagen marathon field after searching for a race that both offered a ~2:25 pace group and was hosted somewhere with delicious food, Copenhagen safely ticked both boxes. I’d hoped to be able to commit, injury free to an 18-week Pfitzinger block starting in January, but it quickly became apparent that my ongoing leg issues were going to prove stubborn. The decision was thus made, months in advance, that it would not be sensible to progress past the half-marathon mark. Live to fight another day.

At Copenhagen there are two elite fields. Elite A is reserved for the proper elites, is generally invitation only and results in an all-expenses paid trip to run very quickly around the Danish capital. Comparatively, Elite B is a little more achievable, with fixed qualification standards for men and women. Graciously the organisers were happy to accept me, which came with complimentary entry and a few key perks. The first of which are unique bibs for the front and back, emblazoned with the runners’ surname. The bib grants access to a designated elite zone; a large fenced off area with changing tents, private bag drop, food and loos, with direct entry to the start area of the race. Athletes are free to warm up along Øster Allé and can go back and forward between the tents as much as they like.

Following introductions for some of the top athletes, the gun went off, and the race was underway. The elite field has a decent head start over the masses, and quickly thins out into the respective pace groups. This year there were five: 2:30, 2:27 (Women’s OTQ), 2:22, 2:10 and 2:07 (Course record pace). The mass start also had large pacing groups available in 10-minute increments, with the regular pacers carrying labelled balloons on their backs.

The 2:30 pace group – a refreshing absence of gels attached to everyone’s shorts.

Another perk of the fancy bib are personal refreshments and elite only aid stations. That morning I’d dropped my pre-mixed concoctions into numbered plastic trays which were then karted off to the various aid stations around the course. This opened up the ability to use carb drinks like Maurten or Beta Fuel without lugging a bottle around and meant that I didn’t need to be laden with gels at the start, a welcome change. Runners dress their bottles up in crazy ways to make sure they’re easily spottable from a distance, with the Japanese in particular being known for using all kinds of tinsel and bling. At Copenhagen there are plenty of aid stations, thirteen in total, with elites having access to a further five, containing cold sponges and nutrition.

The course itself twists through the pancake flat streets of the city, with none of the corners being particularly sharp, a welcome break from the monotony of running in a straight line. Much of the course is flanked with rows of spectators, leaving nary a quiet moment. At a few points, the barriers are removed and spectators are encouraged to get right up alongside the runners, flares, smoke and music included. This leads to an epic “Tour De France” -esque feeling, where it’s almost impossible to avoid the pace spiking up in excitement.

Dronning Louises Bro (English: Queen Louise’s Bridge) across Søerne – One of the loudest pinch points

There’s some overlap between the front and back of the race in the twisty first half. The race doesn’t use a waved start system like Manchester so thankfully runners aren’t waiting hours to start running. This does however mean that the leaders loop around and start to overtake the tail of the race. Not an issue as the lead group comes through behind the lead car, but as lapped runners inevitably start to drift back across the road it can result in a few clipped heels due to unexpected shuffling and dodging manoeuvres.

 Carnage as the lead group needs to cut across the constant stream of the mass start

At the half-way point I bid adieu to the 2:30 pace group and stepped off the course, a moment I’d been dreading for months. In hindsight, it was absolutely the correct decision, I had nothing to gain by pushing on, but everything to lose. Self-preservation before pride.

Overall, Copenhagen marathon is a fast, well organised event set in a beautiful, historic city. With only two Striders in attendance this year (Naomi Tuckett ran an impressive 3:41!), we would both highly encourage anyone thinking about a 2025 Spring marathon to give this one a go.

Nice vest

The men’s race was won by Abdi Ali Gelelchu of Bahrain in 2:09:11. The women’s race was won by Margaret Agai of Kenya in 2:27:31.

Striders results with link to Copenhagen Marathon results

Overall Position Name Chip Time Category Category Position
5058 Naomi Tuckett 3:41:43 W35 78
dnf Robert Byers M30


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