Monday, September 12, 2011

Copenhagen for runners and non-runners

On the weekend Alison and I went to Copenhagen to attend a wedding. This was going to be a complex balancing act involving the following activities:
  • Running training
  • Watching the rugby world cup inaugural weekend in a country that has not heard of rugby
  • Attending wedding and associated activities
  • Sightseeing
In order to prepare myself for this plethora of events and exercises, I undertook to (a) seek out an antipodean establishment where I could watch live Rugby World cup matches in the morning - we found one called ‘the Southern Cross’ (b) download a Copenhagen tourist information Iphone Application – simple (c) find out where we needed to be and at what time for various wedding events happening throughout the weekend and lock them into Google maps app on Iphone and (d) find some good places to run.

The later three bullet points on the list sorted themselves out. The wedding (of Alison’s friend Caoimhe and her Danish partner Thomas) was a fun-filled day involving meeting lots of friendly intelligent folk and even included a canal boat cruise around Copenhagen, which to an extent also covered off bullet point number four in the list. Here is Alison at Nyhaven.

I was thinking about how cool Danish people are. But then it occurred to me that I may have just met lots of ‘above average coolness’ Danish people, since everyone at the wedding was friends with Caoimhe and Thomas who are cool themselves, and who are friends with my cool girlfriend Alison. Perhaps my observable sample size was too small and not representative of the population. But I am told that this coolness phenomenon is widespread in the city. One thing that is clear is that Danish people all speak fluent English, which makes communication easy for the linguistically challenged. It also enables more enriching conversation with local people, than what you might experience in certain Southern European cities.

Copenhagen is a nice place: combining the grandeur and seriousness of the great Northern European cities (Berlin and Warsaw) with some of the charm and quaint architecture of its cousins to the distant South (Paris and Barcelona). The beautiful people of Copenhagen whizz around on their bikes, with their abundance of wealth and the backing of the World’s most generous social security system, and seem happy to be living there. The city is clean and sophisticated. If Copenhagen were a person, he would look down his nose at the reckless abandonment (partying) that is common on the streets of many of its Anglicized or Spanish counterparts. I suppose that’s why you don’t find many Danish people in Temple Bar on a Saturday night.

The retro bikes and hip style of outfits adorned by people on the street hints at an edginess that doesn’t seem to manifest itself in the bars and cafes throughout the city (with the obvious exception of Christiana, which seems quite culturally and geographically detached from the city). Initial impressions after two short visits have been that Copenhagen is an understated city. I reserve my judgment on that because I suspect that more time would be required in order to ‘discover Copenhagen’.

One’s experience of the city can be somewhat overwhelmed by its expense. We might have enjoyed the broad range of culinary experiences and beers on offer more if it weren’t for the sour taste inevitably left in our mouths by the bill. Once you get your head around the conversion between Euro and Danish Kroner, you all of a sudden feel like you’re being robbed every time you step into a shop, bar or restaurant. This frustration came to a head on our final morning in the city when I was charged the equivalent in Kroner of €7 for an orange juice in an Irish bar while watching Wales v South Africa. I was displeased, even before Wales handed the game to the Boks on a plate.

Anyway, I found some good places to run in Copenhagen:

The Soern (lakes)

There are five adjacent man-made lakes that form a part-circle around North-western Copenhagen. It starts in Vesterbro and finishes in Osterbro. Soern looks like this from the sky:

There is a well-beaten gravel path circling the lake/s, which seem to be very popular with the locals for walking with strollers, cycling, and running. The lakes themselves, along with the surrounding area is picturesque, and the trail is a pleasure to run around. Lots of trees and greenery, and there even a few playgrounds and cafes/bars on the lake-edge if you feel like stopping for a Carlsberg mid-run. This is one of my favourite runs. Here is what it looks like lakeside:


This is a park at the north-eastern end of the five lakes in Osterbro. It is a nice place to run, and has a decent 2km loop around it on wide gravel path. Nice place for intervals or a pace run. Plenty of people around, but not too many that they get in the way.

Amagerfaelled (park)

In radical contrast to the sculptured and well maintained Faelledparken in the North, this place is an overgrown vegetative wasteland of sorts in the southern flank of Copenhagen. While Amagerfaelled park is by no means pretty, it is good for running in because it is large and has a more extensive network of trails throughout.

I jogged to the Park from the city centre for a scheduled 25 minute pace run. Soon after I started I followed a trail around a corner onto a main path and found myself in the middle of an organised race. I was somewhere near the back of a dispersed field, and I spent the rest of my pace run (at 3:33 min/km pace) working my way up the field. Certainly kept things interesting. 

The river near Amagerfaelled is a good spot for jogging too.

If I had more time I would explore the canals and trails behind Christiana, because I think there might be some interesting running routes there.

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