Marathon March – Sweden - Atlas Obscura

Marathon March

A competition inspired by Stephen King's psychological horror novel "The Long Walk." 


Every summer, an unusual race takes place, starting in the Swedish capital. It’s a grueling test of endurance inspired by an unlikely source: a Stephen King novel.

The 1979 psychological horror novel The Long Walk is set in a future dystopian America, where an annual walking competition is held. One hundred boys start walking at a constant speed of four miles per hour, escorted by soldiers. It’s soon obvious that the soldiers aren’t there for the sake of the contestants, but instead serve a much more sinister purpose.

The Marathon March starts in downtown Stockholm and follows a path around Lake Mälaren. The contestants have to keep a constant speed of three miles per hour with the exception of shorter breaks every sixth hour and the 24 minutes of time each person gets to use a portable toilet on a trailer every day. If a contestant falls behind, he or she gets a warning and has to decide whether to catch up with the rest or throw in the towel.

The competition goes on until the second-to-last person gives up. There’s no limit to how far or for how long it will go in. In 2009, when it all started, the winner walked for fewer than 10 hours, but the length of the race has since steadily increased, and the longest time recorded is now 87 hours and 48 minutes!

The winner of the Marathon March is rewarded a 20,000 SEK ($2,200) cash prize, a lot less than the winner in Stephen King’s novel, who gets whatever he wants for the rest of his life. But then again, there are no soldiers there to eliminate anyone who falls behind. Instead, those who can’t keep the pace can go home and get some well-deserved rest.

Know Before You Go

The Marathon March is an annual event around the end of June every year. It starts at the Martime Museum in Stockholm and follows a path around lake Mälaren.

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