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Kopac's Corner

Aabenraa Bjergmarathon - Free Room and Not Bored

by Bob Kopac

The Onteora Runners Club (ORC) e-mail chain had a discussion about the benefits of local races versus out-of-town races. Well, former Mad Dash co-directors Laura and Al Grigull of Rhinebeck, NY let me know about an out-of-town race -- a way, way out-of-town race: the Aabenraa Bjergmarathon in Denmark.

In 2005 Al and Laura visited Germany. While there, they found a marathon and other races in the Danish town of Aabenraa, 30 kilometers from the German border. [See Als article Four and One-Half Hours of Glory]

In 2006 the Aabenraa Bjergmarathon race directors Anne Grete and Holger Jacobsen ran the NYC Marathon and stayed with Al and Laura. At a party, Holger told me about an amazing enticement for you to run their race. They will offer a free room to any American runner! You can stay at the home of a local running family.

Al said, Ane and Halfdan Neumann [their host family in 2005] gave us a tour of the city, we ate at their house, and they fed us breakfast. We were a quarter mile from the starting line, and we walked to the starting line. They had a pre-race dinner. Since I was the only American, I was like some rock star. [Laughs] That was my most enjoyable marathon ever.

The Saturday June 23, 2007 Aabenraa Bjergmarathon races consist of a marathon, half marathon, 10K, 4.2K, 1.5K children's run and a 470-meter children's run. There also is a Nordic Walking 10K for walkers who use Nordic walking sticks. The marathon and 10K Nordic Walking start at 10 AM, half marathon at 10:30 AM, 10K at 11 AM, 4 KM at 12:30 PM, and children's runs at 2 PM and 2:30 PM.

The marathon course is in the shape of a cross. Using the town center as a focal point, the course has 4 legs. It first travels east, then back to the town center, then travels west, then back, then south and back, and finally north and back. Because the course goes east, west, south and north, they have water stations every 3 to 4 kilometers.

The closest airport is in Hamburg, Germany, which is 200 KM away, about 1 hours by car. The Copenhagen airport is 3 hours away by car; you can take a train.

Holger said, The race started in 2000 when the Danish government gave money for events for the Millennium. We had been in China on the Great Wall and ran the marathon. We said, If they can have a marathon on the Great Wall, then we can make a marathon in Aabenraa in the mountains. We thought that it would be a one-time event, but we have had it ever since. We started in 2000 with a total of 517 runners. In 2006 we had a total of 1,501 runners, with 100 marathoners. In 2007 we will have a group of 40 women called the Mountain Ladies who will run the marathon.

Bjerg is Danish for mountain. Holger told me, People say, A mountain marathon in Denmark? It is not possible. Come and run, and you will find out. [Laughs]

Race fees are as follows (all dollar amounts are approximate based on the exchange rate): marathon 275 Danish Krone ($50), marathon 175 Krone ($30), 10 KM 70 Krone ($13), staff walking 60 Krone ($11), 4.2 KM 40 d.kr. ($7), Children's races free (no prizes). The post-race dinner is 80 Krone ($14).

There is an added attraction for the race. Holger and Anne Grete told me, This is a special day in Denmark. We have the mid-summer solstice. We celebrate it on June 23rd. All over the country we have bonfires and burn the witches, in order to send them away to Blocksberg in Germany. It is a very old tradition. We will eat after the marathon with our guests and our volunteers, and then we will have music. We will go down to the water and there will be a bonfire, and our speaker from the marathon will make a mid-summer speech -- it is a tradition in Denmark.

For race information and to sign up, email aabenraa@bjergmarathon.dk or go to the http://www.bjergmarathon.dk web site. The site has an option to display the race information in English. Imagine, free room and not bored!