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Your insider's guide to the DHL relay 2013

From prepping for the race to getting those grilled sausages and that cold beer. Here is how to get the most fun out of this Friday's run

It is one of the biggest sports events in the world, and is one of the biggest social events for the University of Copenhagen. It is that time of the year, and everyone either loves it or hates it. It is the DHL relay race.

The University of Copenhagen has literally thousands of participants involved, both on the so-far 459 registered University of Copenhagen teams, totalling 2,295 staff and students, but also represented on hundreds of other teams.

You may be on a team of super runners out to win one of the prestigious University of Copenhagen trophies or you may be at the DHL to hang out with your colleagues and friends. This guide for participants will help you get the most out of the evening.

Should you be on the team?

If you are reading this guide now, you have probably been selected for your office, department, or course team. Most likely it is just because you want to run, and you want to have a good, active, night out.

Still, if there has been any selection process, several strategic decisions will also have been made for you:

If there are several teams from one department, class or institution:
1. Should we put all the fast runners on one team to score high on the results list? Should we just have a friendly contest between two groups? Or should we just not care and have fun?
2. Should we put guys and gals together to try and go for one of the mixed team placings?

Hot tip: If you have a start number from 1-250, put the fastest runner on the first leg (less traffic and overtaking).

Pre-race training

By this time you should be able to – depending on your state of fitness – sprint, jog or walk five kilometres.

if you are really into maximizing your fitness fast, then this University of Copenhagen science will help you out. In effect, it says that you should forget about those long, slow, runs and concentrate on a series of 30 second sprints.

Hot tip: Don’t try to pack in any intensive training in the last week up to the DHL. You won’t get the benefits anyway before after the race, and it will just make you tired.

What to wear

The University of Copenhagen has in previous DHL years had wine-red, and pea-green T-shirts. Last year they inaugurated the popular ocean-blue T-shirts, which you can see a few examples of in our DHL coverage here.

But the big question you have to ask yourself now is: What else am I going to wear?

As for colouring we recommend something that contrasts nicely with the ocean blue.

It can get hot out there, and we don’t recommend track suit bottoms.

If you want to shave a second of your time, we recommend shorts that aren’t too baggy, or running tights (half, 3/4 or full length).

Style tip:
Don’t stuff your T-shirt into your shorts.

Getting a table

The University of Copenhagen has several big tents in the Fælledparken venue where the event takes place.

Part and parcel of the DHL experience is the cardboard box with goodies and red wine, and you need a nice place to sit down and enjoy it.

There is always a scramble to get a good table, so make sure one of you is there early before the race starts to make sure of it. The race starts at 18:00.

Hot tip:
Make sure one of your team is there by 17:15, or even 17:00 to grab a good table.

Race tactics

For those of us who are happy to shuffle along in the long sausage of runners, there is only one possible race tactic:

1. Jog slowly through the first 3.5 kilometres, and then pick up to a sprint just before you pass your friends in front of the University of Copenhagen tents at around 4 kilometres, then jog to the finish line/changeover, and collapse.

For those who want to really beat the neighbours’ office team, then the tactics become a bit more advanced.

The DHL is essentially two races back to back: From 0-3.5 kilometres, where there is a bit of space to run and overtake. Then, suddenly, the bottleneck. 3.5 kilometres to the finish, it goes through, and between the tents, on a twisty and narrow, green-carpeted section, where there can be little room to pass. This is the section where the onlookers and fans will have set up their barbecue grills, making for a smoky, cauldron of sausagy, beefy mist.

If you are faster than average, there are two schools of thought as to how to tackle this tactically:
1. Race the first 3.5 kilometres faster than average, and drag yourself through the last 1.5 of smoky, twisty, hell.
2. Go slower on the first 3.5 kilometres, in order to be able to have the energy to accelerate and decelerate over the past 1.5.

Hot tip: Take it really easy on the first kilometre. With all the adrenaline going, you almost always overestimate yourself.


Cornering is an issue. Especially for those who run faster than average through the crowds of runners. Should you try to minimize the distance run by clipping all the corners on a tangent, or take the long way around?

The University Post interviewed Niels Grøn Nørager from the Department of Medicinal Chemistry who in 2011 ran a phenomenal 16:30 on his leg of the DHL.

His message is clear: Go wide! The time gained on going sharp into the corners is lost on collissions with other runners and decelerations.

Hot tip: Avoid conflict with other runners. You will be overtaking, or being overtaked all the time, and some pushes and shoves are inevitable. But stay cool and relaxed. If you get frustrated it will only make you slower.

Grill smoke

Once you are in the smoke zone, (3.5 kilometres to 5 kilometres), there is really not that much you can do about it. You obviously can’t hold your breath.

Think positive at this stage: In your mind, the mantra should be: ‘Look at all these people having a good time, and what a great fun event this is’.

Hot tip: Use self-suggestion: Put a grimace on your face, and pretend it is a smile.

Hand-over zone

The DHL is a relay race, and runners run with a baton which they hand over to the next runner in a large, transition zone.

When you enter the transition, hand-over zone, you enter a large fan-shaped field. Take time to know beforehand where you have to run when you enter the transition zone. It can be a nightmare, if you make the mistake of running in the wrong direction and have to backtrack.

It is the recipient, the next runner’s, job to make sure that he is right up against the hand-over fence and ready to grab the baton when you come in.

Have an estimated time schedule, so that each runner knows approximately when they have to be in the transition zone, ready. Know exactly when the last runner started, so you can be ready in the zone, when he or she is finished.

Hot tip: If you are about to start your leg, and you see your team member coming towards your change over box, shout her or his name. It is likely that she/he is so dazed, and so confused that she/he can’t recognise you.

Post-race recovery

So you burst into the transition zone, lungs bellowing, exhausted, you hand over to your teammate over the transition fence. What now?

Get back to the tent, get something to drink, put on some more clothes if it is cold, and get something to eat. There is normally a sausage queue and a beer queue for University of Copenhagen runners. Have fun with your friends! Get your picture taken!

Relax! Socialise. It is all over! You did it.

Hot tip: Make sure you use the time to soak up the atmosphere. It is only once a year!

Where are the pictures?

After a day or two, you will start to get that feeling. Did it actually happen? Was it really as fun as I thought it was at the time.

One way to make it more real, is to try and find yourself on the pictures.

Hot tip: will be reporting from the event, and publishing thousands, yes thousands of pictures on our website and facebook from Monday onwards.

Last year, our photographer caught all the action. You can still see all our DHL galleries on our Facebook page Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four and finally Part 5

See you all this Friday at the DHL!

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