Hi there, welcome to my corner. I write a bit about my running and racing experience whenever I find the energy. Running can be a lot of work sometimes, so that’s my excuse for often falling behind on blog updates. 🙂 Ok, I knew no one would believe that – ha!
So I suppose I should tell you a bit about myself. Be aware, this is kinda long.
I’m born and raised in Sweden (born in 1969), in a small town called Hörnefors. Map here. Back in the 1980s, young men like myself had to do at least 7.5 months of military service – military conscription was mandatory (that went out the window later by the way, when the Soviet block fell apart). At that time, I was 18 and unhealthy. I never exercised – I just drank Coke and ate chips every day.
The beauty of the military is that they make everyone do work whether they like it or not. So, for us, that meant running 3 km 2-3 times a week. Oh man, that was hard! I remember the first run we had to do. I had to walk after 300 meters. It was awful. However, as you can imagine, practice pays off. After several months of hurting on these super long jogs of 3 km, we had to do a 1o km race. I had never run that far, and I was a bit worried to tell you the truth. My goal was to run under 60 minutes.
At about 5 km into the race, there was a water station. I remember getting there and feeling excited. Yeah, pit stop with food and drink! I think there were bananas and sports drinks. I ate and drank, ate and drank. I probably took a 6-7 minute break… I didn’t know any better. Naturally, the hurt of running 10 km as a fat potato chips junkie came back right away. I struggled to the finish but I was excited to see the clock hadn’t reached 60 minutes – I made it just under 59 minutes! Whooohooo! I was very proud of that, and figured I’d never bother running that far again.
Fast forward a year and a half. I started a new job, and the “old guys” I worked with, in their mid 30’s and 40’s turned out to be runners. They did a few races every year, and they challenged me, the 20 year-old to race them over a 10 km. The gauntlet had been thrown! Well, I always was stubborn, and seldom smart.
I recalled the all the work it had taken me to get under 59 minutes, and I felt more than a little worried when they told me they ran the 10 km in 44 – 46 minutes or so. Hot dang – that was fast! I knew I had to really focus. I had about 5-6 months before the first race, an 8 km cross-country race.
I did not know anything about how to train properly. I took my car and drove 5 km, made a mark on a tree beside the road, and drove back home. There was my 10 km training run. I figured, if I was to run under 44 minutes, I had better train 10 km every time I went for a run. So, my logic was to run as hard as I could, without having to walk – every time I went for a run. Not so smart, was it! I ran probably 20 minutes on the first 5 km and 35 on the 2nd 5 km… I remember struggling to make it back home without having to walk, and rarely did I get under 50 minutes. Shin splints, pain in joints, calfs, mind – it was just nasty. I literally tried to set a personal best every time I went for a run. See what a diet of Coke and chips does to the brain!
That 8 km cross-country race had me worried, but I managed to beat one of my pals at work, and he was never the same again. He didn’t think this little punk could keep up to him, but I surprised myself by placing in the middle of the pack. A few weeks later, the 10 km road race came up, and I was confident I was ready. To my surprise, the oldest of the guys at work passed me at about 6-7 km, smiling. Dang, I had nothing left in my legs. Then a bit ahead, I could see a girl that I went to school with, and she was pulling away from me too! I came in just under 45 minutes, licking my wounds and promising myself “next time I’ll train harder and run faster”.
What happened next is that I met a guy who had just decided to try and become a serious runner. He taught me about intervals and speedwork, and he pointed me to the Complete Book of Running, by Jim Fixx. I read that book with great interest, and starting copying the workouts from my friend. It did wonders. The very next summer, I entered a local 10 km race, and although my friend beat me, I ran 34:18! I couldn’t believe the progress I had made within just a year.
From there on, I just got more and more motivated to run and race. I joined a club called IFk Umeå, where I found my training partners for years to come. Really great camaraderie and opportunities to improve. There were several guys much faster than myself, so I ended up pushing myself a lot, and learning plenty in the process. I ran my best times while I was training with these guys.
In 1996, I met my future wife from Canada, who was then visiting Sweden. One thing led to another, and I ended up emigrating to Alberta in 1999. It was a big change for me in my ways, as you can imagine. Running-wise, there were fewer people to train with, and the kind of club system we have in Sweden is something I could not find in Alberta. I have never had problems training on my own though, so I kept at it and had good races in 1999 and 2000. I won the Canada Day 15K in Edmonton in 2000 with a 49:15, which I thought was a good time. I ran a 14:40 road 5K, although I seriously doubt that course was a full 5,000 meters. I also ran a 2:37:32 at Victoria Marathon in 1999. I was in really good shape at the time, but I had developed shingles. I was hurting the whole week before and after the race, and I didn’t find out until I saw the doctor the week after the race, that it was in fact shingles. I thought I would break 2:30, but so it goes sometimes.
I then developed a knee injury in the winter of 2001. It came as I was increasing my training on the treadmill in January. I kept ignoring it, but it wouldn’t go away. The pain became bad enough that I had to stop training. I took a few weeks off, but the pain came back immediately when I went for a short run. The marathon was still in my head, and I wanted to come back in 2001 with a sub 2:30 marathon. I went to physiotherapy, doctors and sports medicine clinics. Nothing helped. The sports doctor told me to forget about running 100 km a week – I should be glad if I could jog a couple of times per week, since my knee cap apparently was in bad shape. Condromalacia, they told me. Take up a different sport, I was told.
Well, I have never been one to give up easily. I looked to the internet, and started reading about this condition, and what can be done about it. I decided to order a knee brace, called the Dual Action Knee Strap. I figured it might help the knee cap to move about easier, hence reducing the pain a bit. To my astonishment, it worked! I started running 2-3 times per week, always with the strap on. I did a few races, and the brace made me feel clumsy running, so I decided to try running without it during races. The knee became more sore after a race that way, but I put the brace back on for training runs. What happened was that over a few years, the pain started to disappear. I started training some days without the brace, and eventually I was pain free. I was able increase my training volume, and still, the pain never came back. Somehow, I had “cured” myself, despite the “expert advice” I had received. Go figure.
I lost a lot of fitness and speed during these years. The fun part for me is that now when I’m past 40, I’m still improving from when I got injured at age 31. I am running faster now then I ever did in between 31 and 39. I’m thankful and glad I have been able to do that. How I managed to do that is by being injury free for several years, and just putting in the work, knowing that results come from good training. It just pays off if you do it right, whether you’re 31 or 43 or 86 years old. Trust me on that.
2011 was a remarkable year for me. As a 42 year-old, I managed to win the Alberta Timex Road Race Series, and I placed first in the first 6 races I entered. I raced everything from the English Mile to a 32 km challenging stage at Sinister 7, and the Masters category in the races I entered was kind of my baby, so to speak. I finished the year by going to Vancouver for Cross Country Nationals. There I placed 7th in the Masters race, although I had hoped to do better. The course was extremely wet, which is my worst enemy. My technique for running well wet and sloppy courses just isn’t there.
2012 is looking good so far. I was 2nd at the Red Deer Half Marathon, and my time was the fastest half marathon I have done since 1999. Not bad for a soon-to-be 43 year-old guy who was told (10 years ago) to forget about ever running competitively again.
Nowadays, I run about 80 – 110 km per week, and I usually get one fast workout in per week, sometimes two. I love to race, always have. That means I do enter a lot of races. K-1oo relay, Sinister 7, Edmonton and Calgary marathon weekends, Red Deer, some 5 Peaks races, perhaps even track if the opportunity comes up, and of course cross-country in the fall. Racing frequently helps me stay sharp!
I also spend some time every fall as a running co-coach at Augustana Campus, University of Alberta. Our teams compete on the ACAC circuit, and I try to run many of the races we go to. Great fun, especially when I can stay ahead of runners 20 – 25 years younger than me.
I have worked as web developer/web designer for over 15 years, but I am in the process of starting up my own guitar teaching business, as that is my other big passion in life – playing guitar.
I live in Camrose with my wife and an 8 year-old girl, both of whom runs. We also have two very active girls, age 18 and 21, a dog and two cats. My wife has been a runner for a long time, and she is taking on the challenge of Ultra Marathons this year. So far, I’m too scared for such long races. I also have good training partners in our little city. Brendan Lunty and Ian Blokland are both sub 2:40 marathoners, and we have a small but great running club called Camrose Running Club, which meets twice per week.
My Personal Bests:
- Marathon: 2:37:32
- Half-marathon: 1:09:42
- 10,000 meters: 31:35
- 5000 meters: 15:21
- 5 km road: 14:40
- 3000 meters indoors 8:46
- 5 Mile road race 25:19
- 1500 meters 4:10
“If the furnace is hot enough, it will burn anything.”
– John Parker, Once a Runner