How I created Uppsala Marathon

Want to know how you can organize a successful marathon in your town? Then, read on! This article tells the story of how ultra marathon runner Mohamad Hassan started Uppsala Marathon right from scratch and reached a peak of 2200 participants, doubling the amount in just one year!   

Background Story of Uppsala Marathon 

In 2014, Mohamad Hassan ran 90km in the first Ultravasan, which is an ultra marathon in the North of Sweden. While running, he started thinking about his hometown Uppsala and pondering over why there wasn’t any marathon there. 

“When you run an ultra marathon, you have a lot of time to think. I asked myself: “Why does Uppsala not have its own marathon? This is when I decided to organize my first marathon”, says Mohamad. 

Mohamad started contacting different sports clubs but no one was keen on organizing a marathon, so he decided to do it himself! He created a nonprofit to set up the marathon: Uppsala Marathon Society with the purpose of promoting long distance running. 

The winner of the first Uppsala Marathon held in 2016 was Johan Jafner, who contacted Mohamad after the event with some feedback. Mohamad asked Johan to join him in being co-organizer of the event, which he accepted, and now they have now organised six marathons together. Still to this day, the two of them do the bulk of the organizing work and hire externally for specific help at the event. For Mohamad and Johan, this is a passion project that they do outside of their own work, and something they do for the community. 

Finding the Right People to Help You 

On race day, it’s important to have a good team. Uppsala Marathon has plenty of volunteers from local sports clubs and high school students who want to get some work experience. This year, they got help from four different high school classes. The also work with the local cycling club and Uppsala Art Museum. It’s important to reach out to the community – there are plenty of people who want to help out! Want to learn how you can collaborate with your city? Get tips in this article. 

“I think an important key is that we make sure to be generous with our volunteers. We want everyone to get the right pay for their help, and this is why we believe we have such happy volunteers. They reach out to us and tell us they would like to work for us, and we have plenty of volunteers who have been helping us each year such as the local handball club”, Mohamad explains. 

A caring community leads to kind spontaneous gestures. This year the last participant of the race got handed her medal by the local governor. “She said it was one of the best moments this year”, Mohamad says. It is these small moments that come together that make the race the best it can be. “Make sure to have people that care, and want to share their positive energy on race day!” How can you find the right volunteers for your race? Read this article. 

Happy Participants Spread the Word 

By having the right team you will get the right spirit of the marathon, and make it a wonderful experience for the runners. This is what one runner said about the event this year:

”I have run 17 marathons in Stockholm and in Europe. This is one of the best – a nice track, both running on soil and gravel roads, and a decent amount of asphalt. So beautiful to run through Old Uppsala and through the main street. I have never experienced so many happy volunteers who cheered the way they did! Thank you for hosting this event.” – John Gunnarsson

When you have participants who are happy with your race, you know they will not only return but also spread the word.

Some ideas for making your event extra great:

  • Set up a nice track with volunteers cheering on and live bands
  • Offer prize money to the winners
  • Collaborate with local shops for sponsored treats at the event (for example tasty vegan chocolate)

Marketing Tips from Mohamad

According to Mohamad, you should try a few different marketing channels to find which ones work the best for you. For Uppsala Marathon, this means: be active in runner’s forums online, use social media to reach out and tell your story (Uppsala Marathon mainly use Facebook and Instagram), market your race in podcasts that are in line with your race. For instance, as the Uppsala Marathon is a running race so they have been in Swedish running podcasts such as Maratonlabbet and Maratonpodden.

Also, when you have a great race that runners love, they will share it on their own channels thereby reaching out to their own contacts so the word about the race will spread organically! 

Check out this video which summarises Uppsala Marathon 2023:

Always Plan for More Participants

“We got 400 participants signing up in the two weeks prior to the event. I was positively surprised and glad I had ordered a double amount of medals and bib numbers. I got everything in time except for the race shirts. So for the late sign-ups, they got everything except for the t-shirts. We handled it by making it possible to send the shirts to the participants after the event”, Mohamad tells us. 

The tip here is to always plan for double the amount of participants (i.e, double the amount of bibs, medals and t-shirts). How can you be more eco-friendly about it? Mohamad has a few suggestions:

  • leaving off the year for merchandise so that they can be re-used for next year. For example, leaving out of the band the medal hangs on (so it just says Uppsala Marathon, and not Uppsala Marathon 2023)
  • ordering medals locally to know what it is you are getting (avoid harmful chemicals). It might cost a bit more but it is so worth it!
  • be smart about colors – have “neutral” coloured merchandise that you can use as extras if you need

Let the numbers speak for themselves! 

Below, you can see an example of how the list of participants running Uppsala Marathon has grown over the years. This is an example of what you can expect for your own race if you consistently put the work in.

  • 2020: 600 participants 
  • 2021: 800 participants 
  • 2022: 1100 participants
  • 2023: 2200 participants
  • 2024: ?

“It would be great to have 3000 participants in 2024, let’s see! My dream is for everyone to run down the Carolina Rediviva hill in Uppsala, so that would mean having 2-3 different starts. Of course, I would love to grow our participant numbers even more but that is not the main thing. The experience of the race is the most important thing. Running together in beautiful Uppsala and having a good time” – Mohamad Hassan

We hope this article has helped you with some ideas for starting your own marathon! Let us know if you need any help! Team RaceID are here for you!