Lidingoloppet raises the curtain on 2018-19 cross country season

Napoleon Solomon after winning the 2017 TCS Lidingoloppet race
Organisers

Sweden's Napoleon Solomon after winning the 2017 TCS Lidingoloppet race

The 2018-19 series of European Athletics Cross Country Permit Meetings gets underway on Saturday (29) with the famous TCS Lidingoloppet cross country race in Sweden, held on an island just a few kilometres away from the capital Stockholm.

An estimated 40,000 runners will participate in the weekend’s races with around half that number in the classic 30km event. Around 2000 officials and volunteers from the two organising clubs, IFK Lidingo Track and Field and IFK Lidingo Orientering will also be involved.

This year local star Maria Larsson will be going for her third successive win, attempting to emulate Lena Gavelin the only woman to achieve such a feat when she won three consecutive years between 2004-6, and the latter also won in 2002.

Also on the start line will be Hanna Lindholm and Mikaela Larsson, who represented Sweden in the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships marathon, and 37-year-old Ida Nilsson who was a former US collegiate champion and is still one of the world’s top trail runners.

Last year Napoleon Solomon became the first Swedish runner to win the men’s race in nine years and the 2017 Nordic cross country champion returns to defend his title as part of preparations ahead of the Tilburg 2018 SPAR European Cross Country Championships on 9 December.

“it's a tough course and the competition is quite difficult. It's definitely an important race for me and I'm proud of my victory (last year). It was the first time I ran 30km. The past season has been long, my body hurts, and I have had a foot injury for a couple of months, but I have tried to train and I'll see if that's enough. The form on the day is important and how you tackle the slopes is always a crucial factor,” commented Solomon, who will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing 12th place in the Berlin 2018 3000m steeplechase.

Lidingoloppet race started in 1965 when legendary Swedish athletics journalist Sven Lindhagen wrote in the newspaper Idrottsbladet that Sweden ought to have a running counterpart to the popular Vasaloppet long distance cross country skiing event held every winter since the 1920s.

The article was read by Sven Garderud – the father of Anders Garderud who became the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games steeplechase champion – who immediately thought that his hometown of Lidingo would be perfect for such a race. Within just a few days he had researched a 30km course on trails and small roads through the Lidingö woods and parks and in early October 1965 the first race was held attracting 644 runners.

Nowadays almost 30 times that original number take part in the main race.

On Friday (28) the theme is inclusion with school relays and races for Paralympic athletes.

Friday will also see the fourth Cross Country Conference, organised by the Lidingöloppet event in partnership with Swedish Athletics and European Athletics.

The purpose with the conference is to discuss and promote the importance of cross country as a form of both training and competition during the autumn and winter in Europe.

The Conference also provides an opportunity as a meeting place and networking forum for coaches and runners, as well as people from other endurance sports. This year the Swedish national orienteering team has approximately 130 conference participants.

Among the speakers this year are three-time European 800m champion Adam Kszczot, from Poland, Sweden’s former world and European orienteering champion Helena Bergman, British endurance coach David Harmer and Danish athletics federation director general Jakob Larsen, LOC head of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019.