Kullamannen is a killer race.
But that’s exactly the point.
There isn’t much happening in the southern Sweden town of Molle in November. It’s quiet and you can tell most of the white wooden buildings are vacation houses, because there’s no one around.
Everything changes for a weekend, though, during a legendary race with a legendary name – Kullamannen. A race that brings 1850 runners at the start line of a real adventure.
It’s exactly 1850 people, because that’s the limit of inscriptions and it’s always sold out many months in advance.
The spirit of Kullamannen
Kullamannen legend has several interpretations. Some say Kullamannen was a wise man who would predict people’s future, some say he was a knight that chose a life of isolation after a disappointing love, while others refer to it as the spirit of the mountain, the one who decides which ships wreck and which don’t.
What I know for sure is that it has a scary note it it, but it’s exactly what makes the Swedes love it and wait for the race an entire year.
Kullamannen races take place in a landscape that might trick you into thinking it might be too easy. After all, southern Sweden is pretty flat. But ask any runner in the ultra or marathon, or even half marathon race, and they will tell you it’s definitely not an easy one. The weather, the mud, the technical parts, the speed you need on the non technical ones – those are just a few of the challenges.
The race starts in Molle, on the coast, the very gate of Kullaberg natural reserve.
Looking around, it reminded me of my hometown, Tulcea. Molle is also a natural reserve and a wetland paradise for birds. The smell of algae, the sand and the strong wind reminded me of the winter mornings in my childhood.
First race in 5 months
This was the first year when the ultra distance was introduced in the competition menu – 100 miles! So many people signed up for it, but only a few were able to finish.
There was a 72% abandonment rate and only 36 men and 4 women made it to the finish line.
Others had the chance to run the marathon race (Double Death), the 24k race (Death Zone) and the 12.8k (Black Course).
For me, this was the first race in 5 months, after fracturing my ankle in Olla de Nuria in June. It was also the longest run since then, because I only started running a few weeks ago and maximum 10k at once.
In conclusion, I wasn’t trained and I also got a horrible cold just before the race. But hell, I had missed being in a competition so badly that I decided to do it no matter what.
Running with pain was better than the pain of not running at all.
My plan was not to be competitive, but just to run and enjoy the race vibes, the beautiful trail that everyone had been telling me about, and obviously, the fact that I could finally run after all this time.
On the race morning I had the cold chills. I was high on ibuprofen and was ready to run with my down jacket on. Luckily the guys talked me out of it.
In the first kilometer I thought I would die. I couldn’t breathe, my legs were stiff (I didn’t do any kind of warm-up before), my headphones felt annoying, my buff felt annoying, I felt I had too many layers on, nothing felt good. I finally warmed up a bit after 5-6 km.
The short 12k trail run is called Black Death. I bet it has something to do with all the mud we had on the trail. The elevation is low, but there were some challenging parts, full of mud or slippery rocks, where I took it super easy.
I noticed I didn’t push at all, I kept running at a very comfortable pace. I sometimes thought “come on, Carmen, you run much faster in the trainings”. But I still kept it slow.
Because of the large number of participants, we took the start 50 by 50, at a 5 minutes interval. I started in the second group.
This led to a pretty strange situation for me during the race.
On the one hand, I overtook the slower runners from the first group, but after a short while I realized I was running alone. I had a very slow pace, I could have a conversation, but I know that seeing someone running in front of me would have made me push harder. But since the overall time spent in the race was the only one that mattered, I was competing with people I didn’t even see, that hadn’t even started the race probably. So I kept going slow.
Still, I think it’s best that it happened this way. Being too lazy to push myself meant also going at a pace that prevented any kind of injury or pain. It was one of the few situations where I was happy that nothing hurt at the end, because we all know pain is the indicator that you did a good race 🙂
The only thing that hurt was my butt, after slipping on a wet rock and falling on it, but that’s something I can live with.
I was the 12th in women’s open, out of over 200 women. Not bad.
The day after the race we went to gather some of the marks on the trails. A good excuse to see more of the area: Arild – a beautiful fishermen village, Nimis – the wooden artwork looking like skeletons on the beach, and of course, the big rocks that were part of the longer races routes.
I thanked God that the short race didn’t include those rocks. What had been probably a 20 minute adventure for the rest of the runners took me more than an hour. I was wearing Speedcross, not the best shoes for slippery rocks, but I was prepared for mud, so I felt like I would slip and fall at every step. I think I used my arms more than my legs to get through it.
The day trip also included a visit to the Lighthouse (Kullens Fyr), a place you must visit if you ever go there. It’s the most powerful lighthouse in Scandinavia and from its tower you can see the two bays, one of fortune, where there was a way for the people on shipwrecks to make it out of the water alive, and one of death, where bodies would crash into the rocks.
Hasta la proxima
I know for most of you the season is ending. But for me it just started. And I can’t imagine a better way to start than the 12K at Kullamannen, fun, muddy and pain free. I enjoyed being a part of their story this year and can’t wait for next year’s edition.
I was happy to be around such an amazing group of runners and I was proud of the Romanian team’s results: 1st, 10th and 11th places in the marathon race. How cool is that?
I totally recommend this event combined with a visit to Copenhagen and a taste of the local black bread and grog.
And if you’re scared 8 degrees might be too cold for you, don’t be. The people, the atmosphere and the places are heart-warming enough.
Don’t hesitate to drop them a line on Facebook if you have any questions, and if you consider registering for next year, you’d better hurry. One day after the race, there were already 500 people signed up for the 2018 edition.
Thanks to everyone who made this adventure possible: organizers, hosts, volunteers, and Romanian friends, old and new.
About today. A muddy race on a day when I was totally down with the flu, after a long break, ran pretty slow, and totally enjoyed it. So it is possible 🙂 I loved the event and the people behind Kullamannen race do an amazing job. They bring the warmth even in such a cold place. Very very well organized. And the Romanian team did so well today! . . . .#kullamannen #race #run #trailrunning #trailrunner #medal