Ros Walford goes leaping over granite rocks to give you the lowdown on Sweden’s only coastal trail-running race.
Trail-running in the stunning Swedish countryside
What is this strangely named Icebug Xperience?
It has nothing to do with ice – nor bugs, fortunately. It’s actually a three-day 74-km coastal trailrunning and hiking event organised by a Swedish company called Icebug. The event is part race, part culinary experience, as the ticket includes delicious, healthy meals created using locally sourced ingredients.
Where is it?
Photo by Jonas Ingman
Why should I give it a go?
Whatever your ability, a multi-day race is a massive personal challenge. Not only will you gain a great sense of achievement, but you’ll get into a satisfying rhythm as you complete each day and feel part of a community of like-minded people. Unlike running in the gym or on roads, running along a trail is endlessly stimulating, as the environment continually changes. As you dash along Icebug’s route beside the North Sea, you’ll start to feel alive and wonder why you don’t do this more often.
What should I expect?
Think muddy paths, slippery expanses of moon-like granite rock, grand pine forests and quaint rocky bays lined with colourful fishing boat huts. It’s an invigorating place, with brooding skies, brilliant Swedish light and a fresh sea breeze that reddens the cheeks. It’s the kind of race where competitors have to catch a ferry halfway through, or wait for a bridge to open so that a fishing boat can pass.
Participants cover between twenty and thirty kilometres each day, following pink ribbons to mark the route. There are marshals stations along the way offering high-energy snacks, water and encouraging words.
Photo by Ros Walford
If you’re a hiker, you set off early and cover a fair bit of ground before the elite trail-runners come pounding through – despite awkward boulders and squelchy marshland.
The best athletes finish each stage in around two hours, while everyone else can take up to seven hours. Although the distances are achievable, expect to have pretty tired legs by the end of each day.
Where should I stay?
Ramsvik Cottage Village is a holiday camp that’s taken over by Icebuggers during the event. This is where the race starts each day, in dinky wooden cabins looking out to sea. It’s a lovely spot with a sauna right beside the beach so, in true Swedish style, you can leap from the sweltering cabin straight into the icy lake.
If you prefer something a bit more luxurious, there’s the swanky Vann Spa Hotel nearby.
Do I need to be super-fit to take part?
No, but it helps to have a decent level of fitness. Doing some training before the event will make it more enjoyable. You can either aim to finish the race with your best time (in which case you’ll want to be at your peak fitness) or simply enjoy taking part: stroll along chatting to your new friends, taking in the scenery and snapping pictures of the impressive backdrop.
Photo courtesy of Icebug
What do I need to bring/wear?
Footwear is key. Runners will need to wear trainers that have a good grip, as the rocks and mud are slippery. Trail-running shoes are ideal, as they have strong soles with deep tread like a hiking boot and they’re lightweight. These are a good choice of footwear for hikers too, but a pair of hiking boots will suffice for slower-paced participants. For other gear requirements, see the Icebug website.
Who are Icebug participants?
Not just athletic Swedes; there are people from all over the world. Far from being intimidating, there’s a sense of camaraderie amongst participants of all abilities and a buzz of excitement about being part of such a big adventure.
What is the aprés-race experience?
Everyone gathers in the restaurant at Ramsvik Cottage Village for dinner. Competitors arrive, skin glowing and scrubbed clean of mud. People sit around beside the lake, beers in hand, discussing the day’s events and what lies ahead in the next stage. There’s an air of anticipation as they wait for the stragglers to arrive and, only then, the race results. But once everyone has settled, it’s time to tuck into a high-protein smorgasbord featuring local produce, such as sliced elk sausage and the freshest of seafood – pickled herring, smoked mackerel, oysters and mountains of prawns piled high on rye bread.
I'm going all the way to Sweden. What else can I do while I'm there?
Bohuslän is great for outdoor types. Try sea kayaking near Grebbestad, with the excellent Skärgårdsidyllen Kayaking & Ocean Adventures, where you can potter around around a calm bay that’s sheltered by a cluster of rocky islets, with only seals for company. Afterwards, go on a lobster safari or shuck your own oysters at Evert’s Boathouse.
Further north near Strömstad, close to the border with Norway, are the idyllic Koster Islands. Thanks to a unique deep-water trench that attracts rich marine life, Kosterhavet has been declared Sweden’s first marine national park. You can freewheel around South Koster on a guided bike tour, visiting quiet bays where lobster pots are stacked outside red boathouses. Finish the tour at Koster Gardens, a sustainable garden with a superb restaurant that uses homegrown produce.
For more information about the Icebug experience, watch this video. For more information about what to do in Bohuslän, see here. Explore more of Sweden with the Rough Guide to Sweden. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.
Top image © Vlad Teodor/Shutterstock