This weekend was the Stockholm Marathon. It was a fantastic spectacle of sporty Swedes and other foreigners stamping the 40 plus kilometers around Stockholm. Thousands of people lined the streets cheering, singing and dancing. The sunny summer weather had brought them out in droves.
Standing on the side of the road, cheering on my partner, I was impressed by the amazing effort that all the runners were investing.
I was also struck by the main difference between the Stockholm Marathon and the London Marathon – fun runners in funny costumes. The London Marathon is full of them. People dressed as chickens, as donuts and as marshmallows run the route, usually for charity. In the Stockholm Marathon, the concept of the fun runner in funny costumes is not very common. During the time I watched, I saw a few funny hats, a robber and a bumble bee. Otherwise, it looked very serious. The participants were focused runners, not fun runners.
And this, for me, reflects a crucial part of Swedish culture. People here take their exercise very seriously.
Stockholm is an exercise-friendly city. Every morning, lunchtime and evening, hundreds of joggers run along the many waterside pathways. Cyclists take over the city this time of year and perilously navigate the cycle tracks and roads. Strollers, speedwalkers, stickwalkers,skaters,skateboarders are all out on the streets. Canoists bob around the canals in colourful kajaks. People play kubb and boule in the parks. Every neighbourhood has at least one gym – and they are all packed. Swimming pools, squash courts, yoga studios abound.
In Stockholm, it feels like everybody exercises in some way. And I guess it pays off.
Visitors often remark that Stockholm is populated with so many good-looking people, of all ages. And they wonder why it can be so.
I hate to admit it, but could it be something to do with exercise?