The Gothenburg Half Marathon - also known as the Goteborgsvarvet - boasts the long-time status of being the world’s biggest half marathon. The race which takes place this year on 20 May has been a mainstay on the calendar since 1980 and was recently given a five-star certification rating by European Athletics Running for All.
The Goteborgsvarvet attracted a record 65,000 entrants last year to confirm the race’s status as the world’s biggest half marathon. Having so many runners taking part requires slick and meticulous planning and the runners were set off in 31 waves across a three hour-long window last year to avoid congestion.
The city comes to a halt each weekend for the race but the event is firmly embraced beyond the city’s running fraternity. “The people of Gothenburg have really embraced and love the race. We have more than 200,000 people who cheer the runners on along the course. It’s a great event for the city!” said Rebecca Siwerz from the event.
*Famous faces have graced the Goteborgsvarvet
The appearance of the universally popular Grete Waitz was something of a boon when she lined up in the third edition of the Goteborgsvarvet in 1982. The Norwegian broke the tape in 69:57, a mark which stood as the course record in the women’s race for fifteen years.
But the participation of an icon of Swedish sport was arguably even more influential in encouraging people to tie up their running shoes. “Another very well-known person to finish the race that year was Ingemar Johansson (former world heavyweight boxing champion) - 50 years old and 115 kilograms. When people saw Ingmar running the race, they knew that they could too,” explained Rebecca.
Other past champions include reigning world marathon champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie from Eritrea, former London Marathon winner Joyce Chepchumba from Kenya and top Swedish runners Mustafa Mohamed and Midde Hamrin.
*Points of interest
The course takes in many of the city’s principal attractions, passing through the downtown parts of Gothenburg as well as the beautiful Slottsskogen Park. One of the most distinctive buildings on the course is the Lilla Bommen - colloquially known as The Lipstick.
In total, 55 bands and DJs perform along the route, providing spectators with entertainment and runners with a pick-me-up if they begin to tire.
*Running for everyone
The organisers make a year-round effort to encourage everyone to lace up their trainers - even those who are not aiming to take part in the Goteborgsvarvet.
“We also offer free running classes in 38 different locations around Sweden - a total of 600 classes takes place each year. The classes are free for anyone who wants to participate, even if they aren’t registered for the Goteborgsvarvet. This is so that more people feel prepared and get advice during the whole year on how they can train,” said Rebecca.
Likewise, the organisers offer free training classes to children with five local schools working in collaboration with the Goteborgsvarvet. They also provide them with the chance to sample the atmosphere of race day with free entry into the adjoining kids’ race.
*Doubling the distance in 2021
Gothenburg was founded in 1621 by King Gustavus Adolphus and to mark the city’s 400th birthday, the organisers are inviting runners to test themselves in the inaugural Goteborgsvarvet Marathon. The event will be staged in September and budding runners will the same course used for the half marathon - only twice.
The European Athletics Quality Road Race standards act as an assurance for road runners throughout Europe. They distinguish between races that respect the standards and those that haven’t sought certification or assessment. They form the foundation of Running for All, a strong recognisable brand for running activities throughout Europe.
More information on Running for All: