Running in Copenhagen

"Stuck on a rock, surrounded by tourists - and I can only swim, not run. Sigh." (Photo: "Sirinìna Cupenàghen" by Francesca Sara - Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.)

Mermaids can’t run: no fairytale ending there (Photo: Francesca Sara / Wikimedia Commons.)

Hej! I was in Copenhagen for a few days recently – and naturally I made time for a run in the Danish capital.

This was the first visit to Copenhagen, and indeed to Denmark, for my other half and I. We did most of the classic touristy things – a stroll in the picturesque old port of Nyhavn; a boat tour through the inlets and canals; a visit to the Tivoli Gardens (where I took a spin in the rollercoasters); some fantastic local cuisine (including a chocolate and cinnamon pastry called a snegl); a day trip to Malmo in Sweden by train across the Oresund sea bridge (now famous from a Scandinavian detective show called The Bridge).

On the boat trip we passed by the small but strangely popular Little Mermaid statue, one of many examples of the legacy to Copenhagen of Hans Christian Andersen. Indeed, statues of Andersen himself seem to be all around the city – and there’s a quaint little giftshop in his name in his former home of Nyhavn. (You might even meet him sitting outside.)

Speaking of shops, the Lego flagship store in Copenhagen was a little disappointing. Sure, you can buy all the latest Lego sets and fill up with extra pieces at the pick n’ mix wall, but the nostalgic grown-up like me won’t find any Lego paraphernalia like books, t-shirts, pens, mugs or what have you.

But enough of the holiday programme stuff – I had some running to do.

My pre-holiday research suggested that the best running route in Copenhagen was a four-mile loop around the Søerne, a chain of five small lakes in the old city. However, this seemed to involve a lot of street crossings, and I fancied something more open and uninterrupted.

A glance at the map showed me a large park called Amagerfaelled not far from our hotel. So I worked out a 10-mile route to take me there, around and back.

That morning I was awake earlier than expected, so I decided to get up and go for my run at 6 a.m. The streets of Copenhagen were surprisingly busy at that ungodly hour – young people emerging from parties and doing the walk of shame; prostitutes outside the main train station; groups of tourists wandering around in a haze of time-zone confusion. At the Tivoli Gardens, not yet open for the day, I turned right onto Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard, featuring yet another statue of the man himself.

In the clear summer morning the temperature was already up to 20 degrees – I did well to get my run in while the low sun still cast some shade. Also, a welcome breeze came in off the Baltic.

Crossing over the Langebro bridge to the island of Amager, on which the airport is located, I headed out along the Orestads Boulevard, a bleak-looking area of waste ground, isolated tower blocks and a university campus. Where the early-morning centre of Copenhagen was already humming with people, this place was deserted. A van shot through one junction and screeched off with dubious haste. It felt like a dodgy part of town.

The park of Amagerfaelled did nothing to dispel my first impression – its clumps of bushes, shot through with gaps and clearings littered by rubbish and the odd piece of old clothing, reminded me of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, a famously seedy park at night. (One evening while running through it, night fell sooner than I had expected. Even in only a running top and shorts I soon proved to be the most overdressed person in the Bois de Boulogne.)

One gap in the bushes had a kitchen chair beside it, as if a bouncer or ticket-seller would normally be stationed there. I resolved to keep an eye and ear out for anyone I might be disturbing, although the sound of my shoes crunching the gravelly surface of the paths called a bit too much attention to me for my liking. (In the end, I saw and heard nobody.)

Saying all that, Amagerfaelled is an excellent park for running – I followed an almost-straight road for nearly two miles uninterrupted along one side, as the trees and tall bushes shaded me from the sun. Maybe at a more sociable hour it would feel a safer place to run.

For the return journey I left the heart of the park and came back along the main roads and waterfront on the western side of Amager. A large youth hostel lay silent; no doubt all the backpackers had been up partying late last night too. Cyclists began to appear, and even though I had to run on a cycle path to get to the waterfront they didn’t ring their bells at me in polite outrage.

Along the quays I passed behind office buildings and hotels without seeing much life. The view wasn’t great but I caught the breeze and shade quite nicely here. I crossed over at the Brygge Broen bridge and then joined the wide multi-lane Kalvebod Brygge until I came back to Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard again. Then I headed back to the hotel and finished my run.

My Copenhagen run mightn’t have been as scenic or tourist-friendly as my former Paris routes, or those in Rome and London. But it did the job – I kept up my marathon training schedule without having to pick my way through traffic crossings or crowds of sightseers.

Less Hans Christian Andersen and more Grimm, then, but it still ended happily ever after.

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4 Responses to Running in Copenhagen

  1. Bryan says:

    I love running in new cities! Also, I’m at a Danish family camp right now and really jealous of your trip!

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