A plan for all seasons | Jogging around Denmark

As I write these suggestions, there is no knowing whether Denmark will be buried in snow when you read them. Or worse: a centimetre of ice covering every woodland path or park perambulatory. But one thing is for sure: the days will be getting longer and we will all be heading towards a spring and early summer of fascinating athletic rituals that tell you more about the Danes and their outdoor activities than any couch potato could ever want to know.

Dirking your sport


Before we get that far, though, and if there is indeed snow around, get off your sofa and try out a few of the facilities designed to give Danes a comforting and comfortable arena in which to “dirk their sport”, as they say. The places they favour provide an ontological safety net, enabling them to feel secure in the knowledge that after a bit of rough and tumble on the slopes they will still make it back home for their Sunday afternoon cake, candles and coffee, and that they will be spared the ignominy of getting lost in the real woods.


Skiing with orcs


The first such facility is just 15-20 minutes north of Copenhagen at Rudersdal, a landscape straight out of Tolkien where the kids can play Hobbit while you get your skis out. A 2½ kilometre circuit is illuminated by 239 separate lights providing a magical winter ambiance for family outings in the winter murk. 


Racing the lights


Just beyond the stretch of streets true Copenhageners regard as a kind of Rubicon, you will find Søndermarken, a small assembly of trees and paths forming a seemingly natural no-man’s-land between Copenhagen (oh, all right, Frederiksberg) and Valby. The Nordea Foundation spent 30 million kroner on renovating the slightly undulating paths to provide a novel running course where you can programme the lighting to race you around the 2½ kilometre circuit (yes, the Danes like counting in halves).


If the paths are not covered in ice, you will enjoy meeting crowds of other joggers, and unless they are men in their 30s who think they are just too cool or sej, or would-be X Factor stars with headphones plugged firmly into their pretty little ears, you will find that they are probably much more affable than joggers in your own country. Try a smile and a cheery “God tur!” (pronounced more like “Go two’er”) and you’ll get an equally friendly response almost every time. Danish joggers simply are better people.


Jogging with thousands


Valby, ah yes, Valby: home to the city’s most hyperactive running club. A finer bunch you will not meet anywhere, and thereby the location of a hyggeligt running race for joggers of all shapes and sizes on March 23. You can combine it with a bit of shopping as the race starts from Spinderiet, an attractive mall right next to Valby Station. The distances are 2km, 5km and 10km, with a kid’s race at 11 am and the grown-ups (and any kids who want to join them) at 12 noon. Entries via DGI, Sportmaster at Spinderiet or www.valbyloeberne.dk, the running club’s website. 


Heading out west


The wide-awake reader will have noticed a certain geographical progression in today’s piece. Westward Ho! Once you reach the top of Valby Bakke, you can see all the way to Esbjerg (at least, you could if Valby Bakke were as high as the Danes think it is). Esbjerg 2013 provides you with the best chance you will perhaps ever have to catch the Danes at play. The former fishing port is hosting the 2013 DGI Landsstævn. If you see posters, leaflets or newspaper ads for ‘L2013’, this is what it is.


A summer festival of sports for all, attracting 25,000 Danes for a long weekend of everything from gymnastics to pétanque via jogging and bicycle racing. DGI Storkøbenhavn is organising a bike ride all the way, stopping off on the island of Samsø overnight. Apparently you will even be able to take part on your ‘garden gate’ (the Danish term for the kind of bike your granny might ride). The festival from July 4-7 is something you need to book for. Check out the website at www.L2013.dk. If you have been in Denmark for more than four years, you may have caught some of the last Landsstævn on telly. Unfortunately, TV coverage tends to emphasise the mass rhythmic gymnastics displays and plays down the huge number of sporting activities available.


However, if you have been clever enough to send your 15-year-old to an efterskole this year, he or she may well be one of the 4,000 15-year-olds appearing at the festival gala after a week of preparations on site and six months of hard work at boarding school. (Yes, Denmark does boarding schools en masse for this age group – see www.efterskole.dk.) But whether you are 15 or 50, L2013 is a fabulous opportunity to join in. Which is, after all, what it is all about, and the sure way of making your stay in Denmark a happy one.