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  • Writer's pictureChris Toepker

Mariefred & Sormlands100

Breaking Impossible is certainly about running. But that’s not all! How does it affect our goals? We choose races and challenges with larger meaning. Take the Sörmlands 100 Endurance Run, which I’ve entered as my qualifying event (for our even bigger challenge, the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge #hk4tuc).

As Andre Blumberg, the organizer of HK4UTC notes: 100 miles is 100 miles. No doubt. But I don’t want to run just any race. I’m interested in participating in things that offer more than just miles. So, when a colleague helped me out by suggesting the Sörmlands race, and I read their blurb - I was in!

“It is important to us that Sörmlands 100 isn’t just a race, we really want to highlight the stunning landscape of the region and also the amazing food producers and restaurants. Nothing would make us happier than crowds of people tucking into some delicious locally produced food, whilst cheering on runners at the aid stations on the route”

I am here today to tell you: they ain’t lying!

I’ve been running the opening kilometers, which start north of Mariefred, through town past the historic Gripsholm castle and Östra Södermanlands Järnväg (ÖSlJ) railway, and of course - yes - amazing working farm and wood lands.

Södermanland County coat of arms

Södermanland County (Södermanlands län) lies west of Stockholm, and was formally established in 1683. Yet Mariefred, with the Gripsholm Castle, is much much older - the castle site was a fort stretching back to 1370! Built by Bo Jonsson Grip, he named it after his family and insignia, the griffin (“grip” in Swedish). Most of the current buildings date to around 1565, outdating the county itself. The main Griffin Tower was built in the 1540s as part of Vasa’s stronghold. In front of the tower are two war prizes, Russian cannons captured in 1581 and 1612.

It continues to serve as part of the royal palace system, although it is mostly a museum today. To my eye, it’s heritage as both a military location and royal residence shine through. You can pretty readily make out the balistraria (angled “arrow slots”) for firing in defense along the walls. The round towers also give away the firing advantage. I’ll have to look into the windows and such to see if they are converted cannon ports, or just, well, pretty windows! Still, there are preserved remnants of ammunition rooms, so, I’m thinking - looks like a battery, feels like a battery…probably is a battery. Another interesting thing to me is the foundation, or, as I prefer, the dungeon. I’d love to be able to wander around underneath and see!

On the royal residence side, it’s clearly a comfy place! The gardens and view are peaceful, and well kept. A theater was added to the tower in 1773, perhaps showing how far from any military history it had come already. Several interior court yards are delicately appointed, showing a more refined taste than military requirements.

Be that all as it may, the castle makes a picturesque spot all that more brilliant. Another feature of the town is the Mariefred church, built in 1697 on the burnt ruins of an older monastery. Interestingly, as you can see from this painting at the time, both the castle and church dominate the village - same as today!

A little more recent, but no less amazing is the Mariefred narrow gauge Östra Södermanlands Järnväg, ÖSlJ, railway museum. The line was built to serve a brick works in 1959, and today runs a collection of steam engines and rolling stock ranging from 1890 - 1925, gathered from other narrow gauge lines across Sweden. This is clearly a fave aspect for me - I love trains, and doubly so historic ones. Likewise, some of my fave lines are narrow gauge industrial ones used for logging and brick works (so much like home!).

Outside of Mariefried, there are beautiful farms with acres and acres of wheat, rapeseed, and more. I am particularly enthralled by the Herresta Säteri farm, which the route goes right through. Obviously, even at my recce pace I didn’t have time to investigate fully. Even so, you can’t miss the huge historic cow barns, fields of horses and manor to boot! Hopefully I can find out how to see more after the race, when the trail is not calling so loudly.

As I’ve said, the Sormlands 100 organizers are not kidding around - get out there. It’s a wonder to behold!

From Stockholm Central Station, you can use the “SJ” app for Android and iOS, use an automated ticket kiosk or visit the ticket booth. It is even easier when you’re a resident, with a working and linked bank account. Just Swish via the app!

A word of caution when using the automated kiosks. SJ has a great English translation as part of the kiosk, but when it switches over to the payment method (e.g. using a credit or debit card), it seems to trigger an inexplicable switch to Swedish. This causes me some real headaches the first time. I accidentally input the wrong information, and wound up having my card canceled. So, if not immediately successful, try the app or ticket counter. I had to wait a few weeks to get my card replaced, and that might strand a more casual traveler!

In my travels the ticket counter wasn’t an option because I usually catch the early Mälartåg commuter line to Läggesta, and the counter wasn’t open. It’s about a 40 minute ride, and there’s no reservations. So, just jump on, find a seat and enjoy. At Läggesta, there’s only one exit and you can’t miss the buses. Again, it’s easiest if you have the app: Sörmlandstrafiken. However, there are also options like tapping your credit card (and even cash!) as you step onto the bus. Like many transport options in Sweden, it’s a flat fee that buys you a certain amount of time in the system. I haven’t yet had any trouble with transferring - just get off, tap as you get on. You’ll either get a “go ahead” because you’re within your time, or it’ll charge you, as needed.

If you’re looking to see the sights, get off at Gripsholm stop. You can’t miss the railway and castle and waterfront. They’re all right there!

If you’re looking to find the village of Herresta, where the race will start, it’s a bit tougher. Especially on foot. Take the same bus towards Mariefried and look for Herrestavagen stop. Yes, you’ll know you’re in the right spot because it’s the middle of nowhere. Have a little faith! Alternatively, get off at Torsesunds kyrka and take a look at the small parish there, then hit the road. It’ll only add about a kilometer to your route, and you can see a bit more history!

And finally, you can also check out our timewarp trail tapes, that we use to study the routes and get ready. It’s a bunch of hours for us, but a few minutes for you. Enjoy the dazzling journey! Like and subscribe - it's true, it really helps us out! And, you'll always get the latest updates.

(He wasn't waving me off - he was trying to be sure I wasn't lost. What a guy!)

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